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Facsimh^, Page 55-/^0^ the Book of Leinster. 





Now for the first time done entire into English 

out of the Irish of the Book of Leinster 

and Allied Manuscripts 


Professor ♦at the Catholic University 


"<t)d)3 corjcecUbdc y^x] lietiet)^ 7 2tlb<ir) m <^)m V^* 7 b<lT; 
Utjd be5il y^^ fj-l^Bttetj-o 7 2llb4r| -ojrj 4T)ttiun Tin-" Book of 
Leinster, fo. 64a. 

"For the men of Erin and Alba shall hear that 
name (Cuchulain) and the mouths of the men of Erin 
and Alba shall be full of that name." 




To THE Memory of 



I The Pillow-talk . . . . . 
II The Occasion of the TAin . . . . 

III The Rising-out of the Men of Connacht at 

Cruachan Ai ..... . 

IV The Foretelling ...... 

V The Route of the TAin . . . . . 

VI The March of the Host . . . . . 

VII The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain . 

VIIa The Slaying of the Smith's Hound by 
Cuchulain «... 

VIIb The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain and The 
Slaying of the Three Sons of Necht ScenI; 

Vllc A Separate Version as far as the Slaying of 
Orlam ...... 

VIII The Slaying of Orlam . 

VIIIa The Slaying of the Three MacArach 

VIIIb The Combat of Lethan and Cuchulain 

VIIIc The Killing of the Squirrel and of the 
Bird .... 

VIIId The Slaying of Locnfe . 

VII Ie The Killing of Uala 

VIIIf The Harrying of Cualnge 

IX The Proposals. 

X The Violent Death of Etarcumul 

XI The Slaying of Nathcrantail 















XII The Finding of the Bull 

XIIa The Death of Forgemen. 

XIIb The Slaying of Redg the Lampoonist . 

XIIc The Meeting of Cuchulain and Finnabair 

XIId The Combat of Munremar and Curoi 

XIIe The Slaughter of the Boy-troop . 

XIIf The Slaughter of the King's Bodyguard 

XIII The Combat of C^-r with Cuchulain 

XIV The Slaying of Ferbaeth 

XIVa The Combat of Larin^ MacNois 

XIVb The Colloquy of the Morrigan and Cuchulain 

XV The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain, and the 
Slaying of Loch son of Mofemis 

XVI The Violation of the Agreement . 

XVIa The Healing of the Morrigan 

XVII The Great Rout on the Plain of Murthemne 

XVIIa The Slaughter of the Youths of Ulster 

XVIIb The Scythed Chariot 

XVIIc The Appearance of Cuchulain 

XVIId Dubthach's Jealousy 

XVIII The Slaying of Oengus son of Oenlam 

XVIIIa The Misthrow at Belach Eoin 

XVIIIb The Disguising of Tamon 

XIX The Battle of Fergus and Cuchulain 

XIXa The Head-place of Ferchu 

XIXb Mann's Fight .... 

XIXc The Combat of Calatin's Children. 

XX The Combat of Ferdad and Cuchulain 

XXI Cuchulain and the Rivers 

XXII Cethern's Strait-fight 





Contents ix 


XXIIa Cethern's Bloody Wounds . . . .273 

XXIII The Tooth-fight of Fintan .... 283 
XXIIIa The Red-Shame of Menn .... 285 
XXIIIb The Accoutrement of the Charioteers . . 287 
XXIIIc The White-fight of Rochad .... 288 
XXIIId Iliach's Clump-fight ..... 292 
XXIIIe The Deer-stalking ofAmargin in Taltiu . 295 
XXIIIf The Adventures of Curoi son of Dar:^;. . 296 

XXIV The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim . . 298 
XXIVa The Agitation of Celtchar .... 306 

XXV The Array of the Host ..... 309 
XXVI The Decision of the Battle .... 345 

XXVII The Battle of Garech 348 

XXVIIa The Muster of the Men of Erin . . .351 

XXVIII The Battle of the Bulls . . . .363 

XXIX The Account of the Brown Bull of Cualnge 366 

Index of Place and Personal Names . . . • 37i 


The Gaelic Literature of Ireland is vast in extent and rich 
in quality. The inedited manuscript materials, if pub- 
lished, would occupy several hundred large volumes. Of 
this mass only a small portion has as yet been explored by 
scholars. Nevertheless three saga-cycles stand out from 
the rest, distinguished for their compass, age and literary 
worth, those, namely, of the gods, of the demigod Cuchulain, 
and of Finn son of Cumhall. The Cuchulain cycle, also 
called the Ulster cycle — from the home of its hero in the 
North of Ireland — forms the core of this great mass of epic 
material. It is also known as the cycle of Conchobar, the 
king round whom the Ulster warriors mustered, and, 
finally, it has been called the Red Branch Cycle from the 
name of the banqueting hall at Emain Macha in Ulster. 

Only a few of the hundred or more tales which once 
belonged to this cycle have survived. There are some 
dozen in particular, technically known as Remsccla or 
*' Foretales," because they lead up to and explain the great 
Tdin, the Tain B6 Cualnge, " The Cualnge Cattle-raid," 
the Iliad of Ireland, as it has been called, the queen of Irish 
epic tales, and the wildest and most fascinating saga-tale, 
not only of the entire Celtic world, but even of all 
western Europe. 

The mediaeval Irish scholars catalogued their native 
literature under several heads, probably as an aid to the 
memory of the professional poets or story-tellers whose 
stock-in-trade it was, and to one of these divisions they 




gave the name Tdinte, plural of Tain. By this term, which 
is most often followed by the genitive plural ho, " cows," 
they meant " a driving," or " a reaving," or even " a drove " 
or *' herd " of cattle. It is only by extension of meaning 
that this title is applied to the Tain B6 Cualnge, the most 
famous representative of the class, for it is not, strictly 
speaking, with the driving of cattle that it deals but with 
that of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. But, since to carry 
off the bull implies the carrying off of the herd of which 
he was the head, and as the " Brown " is always repre- 
sented as accompanied by his fifty heifers, there were suffi- 
cient grounds for putting the Brown Bull Quest in the 
class of Cow-spoils. 

The prominence accorded to this class of stories in the 
early literature of Ireland is not to be wondered at when 
the economic situation of the country and the stage 
of civiHzation of which they are the faithful mirror is 
borne in mind.* Since all wars are waged for gain, and 
since among the Irish, who are still very much a nation of 
cattle raisers, cattle was the chief article of wealth and 
measure of value,** so marauding expeditions from one 
district into another for cattle must have been of frequent 
occurrence, just as among the North American Indians tribal 
wars used to be waged for the acquisition of horses. That 
this had been a common practice among their kinsmen on 
the Continent also we learn from Caesar's account of the 
Germans (and Celts ?) who, he says, practised warfare not 
only for a means of subsistence but also for exercising their 

* " L'histoire entidre de I'lrlande est une 6nigme si on n'a pas sans 
cesse a I'esprit ce fait primordial que le climat humide de I'ile est 
tout k fait contraire a la culture des cer6ales, mais en revanche 
^minemment favorable k I'elevage du betail, surtout de la race 
bovine, car le climat est encore trop humide pour I'espdce ovine." 
F. Lot, in La Grande EncyclopSdie, xx, 956. 

** As it is to this day in some parts of Ireland, and as for example 
a female slave was sometimes appraised at three head of cattle 
among the ancient Gaels. 



warriors. How long-lived the custom has been amongst the 
Gaelic Celts, as an occupation or as a pastime, is evident 
not only from the plundering incursions or " creaghs " * 
as they are called in the Highlands and described by Scott 
in Waverley and The Fair Maid of Perth, but also 
from the " cattle-drives " which have been resorted to in 
our own day in Ireland, though these latter had a different 
motive than plunder. As has been observed by Sir Henry 
Sumner Maine, Lord Macaulay was mistaken in ascribing 
this custom to " some native vice of Irish character," for, 
as every student of ancient Ireland may perceive, it is 
rather to be regarded as "a survival, an ancient and 
inveterate habit " of the race. 

One of these many Cattle-preys was the Tain Bo 
Ctialnge,** which, there can be httle doubt, had behind it 
no mere myth but some kernel of actual fact. Its his- 
torical basis is that a Connacht chieftain and his lady went 
to war with Ulster about a drove of cattle. The import- 
ance of a racial struggle between the north-east province 
and the remaining four grand provinces of Ireland cannot 
be ascribed to it. There is, it is true, strong evidence to 
show that two chief centres, political, if not cultural and 
national, existed at the time of the Tdin in Ireland, Cruachan 
Ai, near the present Rathcroghan in Connacht, and Emain 
Macha, the Navan Fort, two miles west of Armagh in 
Ulster, and it is with the friendly or hostile relations of these 
two that the Ultonian cycle of tales deals. Ulster, or, more 
precisely, the eastern portion of the Province, was the scene 
of all the Cattle-raids, and there is a degree of truth in the 
IS couplet, — 

* In fact the Clan Mackay was known as the Clan of the 

creaghs, and their perpetuation was enjoined on the rising generation 

from the cradle. See The Old Highlands, vol. III., p. 338, Glasgow. 

** Pronounced approximately Thawin* bo Huln'ya {da: n bo: x^' 


xiv , Preface 

" Leinster for breeding. And Ulster for reaving ; 
Munster for reading, And Connacht for thieving." 

But there are no indications of a racial clash or war of 
tribes. With the exception of the Oghamic writings inscribed 
on the pillar-stones by Cuchulain, which seem to require 
interpretation to the men of Connacht by Ulstermen, the 
description of the warriors mustered by the Connacht 
warrior queen and those gathered round King Conchobar 
of Ulster accord quite closely. 

The Tdin Bo Cualnge is the work not of any one man but 
of a corporation of artists known as filid. The author of the 
Tain in its present state, whoever he may have been, was 
a strong partisan of Ulster and never misses an opportunity 
of flattering the pride of her chieftains. Later a kind of 
reaction against the pre-eminence given to Ulster and the 
glorification of its hero sets in, and a group of stories arises 
in which the war takes a different end and Cuchulain is 
shown to disadvantage, finally to fall at the hands of a 
Munster champion. It is to this southern province that 
the saga-cycle which followed the Cuchulain at an interval 
of two hundred years belongs, namely, the Fenian saga, — 
the saga of Finn son of Cumhall, which still flourishes among 
the Gaehc speakers of Ireland and Scotland, while the 
Cuchulain stories have almost died out among them. The 
mingling of the two sagas is the work of the eighteenth- 
century Scots Lowlander, James Macpherson. 

The Tain Bo Cualnge is one of the most precious monu- 
ments of the world's literature, both because of the poetic 
worth it evidences at an early stage of civihzation, and 
for the hght it throws on the life of the people among whom 
it originated and that of their ancestors centuries earher. 
It is not less valuable and curious because it shows us the 
earlier stages of an epic— an epic in the making — which 
it does better perhaps than any other work in literature. 
Ireland had at hand all the materials for a great national 

Preface xv 

epic, a wealth of saga-material replete with interesting 
episodes, picturesque and dramatic incidents and strongly 
defined personages, yet she never found her Homer, a gifted 
poet to embrace her entire literary wealth, to piece the dis- 
jointed fragments together, smooth the asperities and hand 
down to posterity the finished epic of the Celtic world, 
superior, perhaps, to the Iliad or the Odyssey. What 
has come down to us is " a sort of patchwork epic," as 
Prescott called the Ballads of the Cid, a popular epopee 
in all its native roughness, wild phantasy and extravagance 
of deed and description as it developed during successive 
generations. It resembles the frame of some huge ship 
left unfinished by the builders on the beach and covered 
with shells and drift from the sea of Celtic tradition. From 
the historical standpoint, however, and as a picture of the 
old barbaric Celtic culture, and as a pure expression of 
elemental passion, it is of more importance to have the 
genuine tradition as it developed amongst the people, un- 
varnished by poetic art and uninfluenced by the example- 
of older and alien societies. 

According to the Chronicles of Ireland, as formulated 
in the Annals of Tigernach,* who died in 1088, King 
Conchobar of Ulster began to reign in the year 30 B.C., 
and he is said to have died of grief at the news that 
Christ had been crucified. His reign therefore lasted 
about sixty years. Cuchulain died in the year 39 a.d. 
in the twenty-seventh year of his age, as we learn from the 
following entry : " The death of Cuchulain, the bravest 
hero of the Irish, by Lugaid son of Three Hounds, king of 
Munster, and by Ere, king of Tara, son of Carbre Niafer, 
and by the three sons of Calatin of Connacht. Seven 
years was his age when he assumed arms, seventeen was 

* Revue Celtique, 1895, tome xvi. pp. 405-406 ; Rerum Hiber- 
nicarum Scriptores, ii. 14. 

xvi Preface 


his age when he followed the Driving of the Kine of Cualnge, 
but twenty-seven years was his age when he died." * 

A very different account is given in the manuscript known 
as H. 3. 17, Trinity College, DubHn, quoted by O'Curry in 
his Manuscript Materials, page 508. The passage con- 
cludes with the statement : " So that the year of the Tain 
was the fifty-ninth year of Cuchulain's age, from the night 
of his birth to the night of his death." The record first 
quoted, however, is partly corroborated by the following 
passage which I translate from the Book of Ballymote, 
facsimile edition, page 13, col. a, lines 9-21 : "In the 
fourteenth year of the reign of Conaire (killed in 40 B.C.) 
and of Conchobar, the Blessed Virgin was born. At 
that time Cuchulain had completed thirteen years ; and 
in the fourth year after the birth of Mary, the expedi- 
tion of the Kine of Cualnge took place . . . that is, in 
the eighteenth year of the reign of Conaire. Cuchulain had 
completed his seventeenth year at that time. That is, it was 
in the thirty-second year of the reign of Octavius Augustus 
that the same expedition took place. Eight years after 
the Tain Bo Cualnge, Christ was born, and Mary had com- 
pleted twelve years then, and that was in the fortieth year 
of the reign of Octavius Augustus ; and in the twenty- 
sixth year of the reign of Conair^ and Conchobar, and in 
the second year after the birth of Christ, Cuchulain died. 
And twenty-seven years was Cuchulain's age at that time." 
These apparent synchronisms, of course, may only rest 
upon the imagination of the Christian annalists of Ireland, 
who hoped to exalt their ancient rulers and heroes by bring- 
ing them into relation with and even making them partici- 

* Mo'.s Conchulaind fortissimi herois Scottorum la Lugaid mac 
tri con, i. ri Muman, agus la Ercc, i. ri Temrach, mac Coirpri Niad 
fir, agus la tri maccu Calattin de Chonnachtaib ; vii. mhliadna a des 
intan rogab gaisced. xvii. mhliadna dano a aes intan mboi inde- 
gaid Tana Bo Cualnge. xxvii. bliadna immorro a aes intan atbath. 
Revue Celtique, tome xvi. page 407. 



events of the life of the Saviour. But in placing 
the date of the expedition of the Tain at about the begin- 
fning of the Christian era, Irish tradition is undoubtedly 
correct, as appears from the character of the civilization 
depicted in the Ulster tales, which corresponds in a remark- 
able degree with what authors of antiquity have recorded 
of the Celts and with the character of the age which archae- 
ologists call " la Tene," or " Late Celtic," which terminates 
at the beginning of the first century of our era. Oral 
tradition was perhaps occupied for five hundred years 
working over and developing the story of the Tdin, and by 
the close of the fifth century the saga to which it belonged 
was substantially the one we have now. The text of the 
tale must have been completed by the first half of the 
seventh century, and, as we shall see, its oldest extant 
version, the Book of the Dun, dates from about the year 

But, whatever may be the precise dates of these events, 
which we are not in a position to determine more accurately, 
the composition of the Tain B6 Cualnge antedates by a 
considerable margin the epic tales of the Anglo-Saxons, 
the Scandinavians, the Franks and the Germans. It_ is 
the oldest epic tale of western Europe, and it and the cycle 
of tales to which it belongs form " the oldest existing 
literature of any of the peoples to the north of the Alps." * 
The deeds it recounts belong to the heroic age of Ireland 
three ..hundred years before the introduction of Christianity 
mtp the island, and its spirit never ceased to remain markr 
edly pagan. The mythology that permeates it is one of 
the most primitive manifestations of the personification 
of the na,tural forces which the Celts worshipped. Its 
historical background, social organization, chivalry, mood 
and thought and its heroic ideal are to a large extent, and 
with perhaps some pre- Aryan survivals, not only those of 
* RidgeWay. 



the insular Celts of two thousand years ago, but also of the 
important and wide-spread Celtic race with whom Caesar 
fought and who in an earlier period had sacked Rome and 
made themselves feared even in Greece and Asia Minor. 

The following is the Argument of the Tain B6 Cualnge, 
which, for the sake of convenience, is here divided into 
sections : 

I. The Prologue 

One night at the palace of Cruachan in Connacht, a dis- 
pute arose between Queen Medb, the sometime wife of 
Conchobar, king of Ulster, and her consort Ailill, as to the 
amount of their respective possessions. It may be re- 
marked in passing that in those days in Ireland, married 
women retained their private fortune independent of their 
husbands, as well as the dowry secured to them in marriage. 
To procure the evidence of their wealth, the royal pair 
sent messengers to assemble all their chattels which, on 
comparison, were found to be equal, excepting only that 
among Ailill's kine was a lordly bull called Finnbennach, 
** the Whitehorned," whose match was not to be found in 
the herds of the queen. 

II. The Embassage to Dare and the Occasion of the 


As we might expect, Medb was chagrined at the dis- 
covery. Now her herald macRoth had told her that 
Dare macFiachna, a landowner of Cualnge, a district in 
the territory of her former husband, possessed an even 
more wonderful bull than Ailill's, called Donn Cualnge, 
"the Brown Bull of Cualnge." So she despatched mac- 
Roth to Dare to pray for the loan of the bull. 

Dare received the queen's messengers hospitably and 
readily granted her request, but in the course of the enter- 
tainment, one of the messengers, deep in his cups, spoke 

^^^^^^HHHP Preface 

tgainst Dare, and he, hearing this, withdrew his promise 
and swore that he would never hand over the Brown Bull 
of Cualnge. 

III. The Gathering of Medb's Forces 
The impetuous queen, enraged at the failure of her mis- 
sion, immediately mustered a formidable army, composed 
not only of her Connachtmen but also of allies from all 
parts of Ireland, wherewith to undertake the invasion of 
Ulster. On her side were the Ulster chieftains who had 
gone into exile into Connacht after the treacherous slaughter 
of the sons of Usnech by King Conchobar of Ulster. Chief 
among them was Fergus, who, moreover, had a personal 
grievance against Conchobar. For, while Fergus was 
king of Ulster, he had courted the widow Ness and, in order 
to win her, promised to abdicate for the term of one year 
in favour of her son Conchobar. But when the term had 
elapsed, the youth refused to relinquish the throne, and 
Fergus in anger entered the service of Medb of Connacht. 
There he was loaded with favours, became the counsellor 
of the realm and, as appears from more than one allusion 
in the tale, the more than friend of the wife of King Ailill. 
The four leagued provinces of Ireland being gathered 
at Cruachan, the guidance of the host was entrusted to 
Fergus, because he was acquainted with the province of 
Ulster through which they were to march, and at the begin- 
ning of winter — a point emphasized by the exponents of 
the sun- theory — the mighty host, including in its ranks 
the king and queen and some of the greatest warriors of 
Ireland, with the princess Finnabair as a lure, set forth on 
the raid into Ulster. 

They crossed the Shannon near Athlone and, marching 
through the province of Meath, arrived at the borders of 
Cualnge. Fortunately for the invaders, the expedition 
took place while the Ulstermen lay prostrate in their cess, 

XX Preface 

or " Pains," a mysterious state of debility or torpor which 
was inflicted on them periodically in consequence of an 
ancient curse laid upon Conchobar and the warriors of 
Ulster as a punishment for a wrong done to the goddess 
Macha. This strange malady, resembing the couvade 
among certain savage nations, ordinarily lasted five days 
and four nights, but on this occasion the Ulstermen were 
prostrate from the beginning of November till the beginning 
of February. During all that time the burden of defending 
the province fell on the shoulders of the youthful champion 
Cuchulain, who had in his particular charge the plain of 
Murthemne, the nearest district to Cualnge, the goal of the 
expedition. For Cuchulain and his father Sualtaim were 
alone exempt from the curse and the " Pains " which had 
befallen the remainder of the champions of Ulster. 

IV. The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain 

The Connacht host had not proceeded far when they 
came upon evidence of some mighty force that opposed 
them. In answer to the inquiries of Ailill and Medb, 
Fergus explains that it is Cuchulain who disputes their fur- 
ther advance, and, as evidence of the superhuman strength 
and prowess of the Ulster youth, then in the seventeenth 
year of his age, the Ulster exiles recount the mighty deeds 
he had performed in his boyhood, chief among which is the 
tale according to which, as eric for the killing of the hound 
of Culann the Smith, the boy-hero Setanta assumed the 
station and the name which ever after clung to him of 
Cuchulain, " the Hound of Culann.'* 

V. The Single Combats of Cuchulain 

Cuchulain agrees to allow the Connacht host to continue 
their march on condition that every day they send one of 

Preface ^^^K xxi 

their champions to meet him in single combat. When he 
shall have killed his opponent, the host shall halt and pitch 
camp until the following morning. Medb agrees to abide 
by these terms. In each of the contests which ensue, the 
heroic youth is victorious and slays many of the most cele- 
brated warriors on the side of Connacht. The severest 
of all these single combats was the one in which he had as 
opponent his former friend and foster-brother Ferdiad. 
At the end of a four days' battle, in which both adversaries 
exhibited astounding deeds of valour, Ferdiad fell by the 
hands of Cuchulain. 

Impatient at these delays, Medb broke the sacred laws 
of ancient Irish chivalry and led her army into Ulster, 
overrunning the province, pillaging and burning as she 
went, even up to the walls of Emain Macha, the residence 
of Conchobar, and finally took possession of the Brown* 
Bull of Cualnge. 

VI . The Gathering of the Ulstermen and the Final 
Battle of the Tain 

By this time King Conchobar and his warriors have come 
out of their debility and summoned their forces to an emin- 
ence in Slane of Meath. The great gathering of the Ulster- 
men is reported to Medb by her trusty herald macRoth„ 
and from his description of the leaders and their troops,, 
their exiled countryman Fergus designates them to the 
nobles of Connacht. In the final battle Medb's army is 
repulsed and retreats in flight into Connacht. Thus each 
host has had its share of the fortunes of war : Medb has. 
laid waste the lands of her divorced husband and carried 
off the Brown Bull of Cualnge, the prize of war, while oa 
the other hand, Conchobar has won the victory in the great 
battle of Garech and Ilgarech. 

xxii Preface 


VII. The End of the two Bulls 

On the way back to Connacht, the Brown Bull of Cualnge 
emitted such terrible bellowings that they reached the 
ears of the Whitehorned remaining at home in his stall in 
Cruachan, whence he rushed at full speed to attack the 
other. A furious battle took place between the bulls, but 
the Brown was the stronger, and raising his rival on his 
horns he shook the Whitehorned into fragments over all 
Ireland. He then returned in fury to Ulster, and in his 
wild rage dashed his head against a rock and was killed. 

The Tain B6 Cualnge has been preserved, more or less 
complete, in a score of manuscripts ranging in date from the 
beginning of the twelfth to the middle of the nineteenth 
century. There probably existed other manuscripts con- 
taining not only the Tain as we have it but even episodes 
now wanting it. All of the extant manuscripts go back to 
versions which date from the seventh century or earlier. 
No manuscript of the Tain is wholly in the language of the 
time when it was copied, but, under the cloak of the con- 
temporaneous orthography, contains forms and words so 
obsolete that they were not understood by the copyist, 
so that glossaries had to be compiled to explain them. 

It is by a singular good fortune that this, the greatest 
of all the epic tales of the Irish, has been handed down to 
our day in the two most ancient and, for that reason, most 
precious of the great Middle Irish collections of miscel- 
laneous contents known as the Leabhar na hUidhre, " the 
Book of The Dun (Cow)," and the Book of Leinster. The 
former and older of these vellum manuscripts (abbreviated 
LU.) is kept in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy 
at DubHn. It must have been written about the beginning 
of the twelfth century, for its compiler and writer, Moel- 
muire macCeilechair (Kelleher), is known to have been 
slain at Clonmacnois in the year 1106 ; some of its linguistic 

Lce xxiii 

forms, however, are as old as the eighth century glosses. 
Unfortunately, LU.'s account of the Tain is incomplete at 
the beginning and the end, but the latter portion is made 
good by the closely related, though independent, version 
contained in the manuscript known as the Yellow Book 
of Lecan (abbreviated YBL.). This manuscript was written 
about the year 1391 and it is also kept in Dublin in the 
Library of Trinity College. To the same group as LU. 
and YBL., which for the sake of convenience we may call 
version A, belong also the British Museum MSS., Egerton 
1782, a large fragment, and Egerton 114, both dating from 
the fifteenth or sixteenth century. 

Version B comprises the closely related accounts of the 
Tain as contained in the Book of Leinster (abbreviated LL.) 
and the following MSS. : Stowe984 (Royal Irish Academy), 
written in the year 1633 and giving, except for the loss of 
a leaf, a complete story of the Tain ; H. i. 13 (Trinity Col- 
lege, Dublin), written in the year 1745 and giving the Tain 
entire; Additional 18748 (abbreviated Add.), British 
Museum, copied in the year 1800 from a 1730 original ; 
Egerton 209 and Egerton 106 (British Museum), both 
fragments and dating from the eighteenth century. Frag- 
ments of a modern version are also found in MS. LIX, 
Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. 

To version C belong only fragments : H. 2. 17 (Trinity 
College, Dublin), dating from the end of the fourteenth 
or the beginning of the fifteenth century ; the almost 
identical Egerton 93 (British Museum), consisting of only 
ten leaves and dating from nearly a century later, and 
H. 2. 12 (Trinity College, Dublin), consisting of only two 

* See H. d'Arbois de Jubainville, Essai d'un catalogue de la 
litterature epique de I'lrlande, Paris, 1883, pages 214-216, and the 
Supplement to the same by G. Dottin, Revue Celtique, t. xxxiii, 
pages 34-35 ; Donald Mackinnon, A Descriptive Catalogue of Gaelic 

xxiv ^ Preface 

The manuscripts belonging to each of these versions, 
A, B, and C, have sufficient traits in common to place them 
in a group by themselves. The question of the relation- 
ship of these manuscripts to one another and of the character 
of the suppositional archetype from which they are all 
descended is a most intricate one and one which has given 
rise to considerable discussion. The question still awaits 
a definite answer, which may never be forthcoming, because 
of the disappearance not only of the first draft of the Tain, 
but also of that of some its later redactions. We must 
not overlook the possibility, either, of an otherwise 
faithful copyist having inserted in the text before him a 
passage, or even an entire episode, of his own fabrication. 
This, no doubt, happened not infrequently, especially in 
the earlier period of the copying of Irish manuscripts, and 
a single insertion of this kind, or the omission, intentionally 
or by oversight, of a part of the original from the copy 
might, it will easily be seen, lead one to conclude that there 
once existed a form of the story which as a matter of fact 
never existed. 

The version of the Tain which I have chosen as the 
basis for my translation is the one found in the Book of 
Leinster (Leabhar Laighneach), a voluminous vellum manu- 
script sometime called the Book of Glendalough and now 
kept in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, catalogue 
number H. 2. i8. Only a part of the original book remains. 
It dates from about the year 1150. This date is estab- 
lished by two entries in the manuscript itself : " Aed son 
of Crimthann (Hugh mac Griffin) hath written this book 
and out of many books hath he compiled it " (facsimile, 
at the bottom of page 313). Who this Aed was will be 
clear from the other entry. It appears that he had lent 
the manuscript while still unfinished to Finn macGorman,. 

Manuscripts, Edinburgh, 191 2, pp. 174, 220; E. Windisch, Tain B& 
Cualnge, Einleitung und Vorrede, S. Ix. ff. 



^ho was Bishop of Kildare from 1148 and died in the 
rear 1160, and who on returning the book wrote in it the 
following laudatory note in Irish to Aed : " (Life) and 
health from Finn, the Bishop of Kildare, to Aed son of 
Crimthann, tutor of the chief king (i.e. of King Dermod 
macMurrogh, the infamous prince who half a century later 
invited Strongbow and the Normans to come over from 
Wales to Ireland) of Mug Nuadat's Half (i.e. of Leinster 
and Munster), and successor of Colum son of Crimthann 
(this Colum was abbot of Tir da ghlass — the modern Terry- 
glas on the shore of Lough Derg, in the County Tipperary — 
and died in the year 548), and chief historian of Leinster 
in respect of wisdom and inteUigence, and cultivation of 
books, science and learning. And let the conclusion of 
this little tale (i.e. the story of Ailill Aulom son of Mug 
Nuadat, the beginning of which was contained in the book 
which Finn returns) be written for me accurately by thee, 
O cunning Aed, thou man of the sparkling intellect. May 
it be long before we are without thee. My desire is that 
thou shouldst always be with us. And let macLonan's 
Songbook be given to me, that I may understand the 
sense of the poems that are in it. Et vale in Christo." * 

It would seem from another note in the manuscript** 
that the Book of Leinster afterwards belonged to some ad- 
mirer of King Dermod, for he wrote : " O Mary ! Great 
was the deed that was done in Ireland this day, the kalends 
of August (1166) — Dermod, son of Donnoch macMurrogh, 
King of Leinster and of the (Dublin) Danes to be banished 
by the men of Ireland over the sea eastwards. Woe, woe 
is me, O Lord, what shall I do ! " *** 

* Facsimile, page 288, foot margin. 

** Facsimile, page 275, top margin. 

*** Vd. Kohert Atkinson, The Booklof Leinster, IntTodnction, pages 
7-8 ; J. H. Todd, Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaihh, Rerum Britannicarum 
medii aevi scriptores, 1867, Introduction, pages ix and flf. Eugene 



My reason for founding the translation on the LL. version, 
in spite of the fact that its composition is posterior by half 
a century to that of LU., was not merely out of respect 
for the injunction of the scribe of the ne varietur and to 
merit his blessing (page 369), but also because LL/s is the 
oldest complete version of the Tain extant. Though as a 
rule (and as is easily discernible from a comparison of LU. 
and LL.), the shorter, terser and cruder the form of a tale 
is, the more primitive it is, yet it is not always the oldest 
preserved form of a work that represents the most ancient 
form of the story. Indeed, it is not at all improbable that 
LL. contains elements which represent a tradition ante- 
dating the composition of LU. At all events, LL. has 
these strong points in its favour, that, of all the versions, 
it is the most uniform and consistent, the most artistically 
arranged, the one with most colour and imagination, and 
the one which lends itself most readily to translation, both 
in itself and because of the convenient Irish text provided 
by Professor Windisch's edition. In order to present the 
Tdin in its completest form, however, I have adopted the 
novel plan of incorporating in the LL. account the transla- 
tions of what are known as conflate readings. These, as a 
rule, I have taken from no manuscript that does not demon- 
strably go back to a twelfth or earlier century redaction.' 
Some of these additions consist of but a single word : others 
extend over several pages. This dovetaihng could not al- 
ways be accomplished with perfect accuracy, but no variants 
have been added that do not cohere with the context or 
destroy the continuity of the story. Whatever slight incon- 
sistencies there may be in the accounts of single episodes, 
they are outweighed, in my opinion, by the value and in- 
terest of the additions. In all cases, however, the reader 
can control the translation by means of the foot-notes which 

O'Curry, On the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, 
page 186 ; Ernst Windisch, Tain Bo Cualnge, pages 910-91 1. 

Preface xxvii 

indicate the sources and distinguish the accretions from the 
basic text. The numerous passages in which Eg. 1782 
agrees with LU. and YBL. have not all been marked. The 
asterisk shows the beginning of each fresh page in the 
lithographic facsimile of LL., and the numbers following 
*' W " in the upper left hand margin show the corresponding 
lines in the edition of the Irish text by Windisch. 

In general, I beheve it should be the aim of a translator 
to give a faithful rather than a literal version of his original. 
But, owing to the fact that so little of Celtic scholarship 
has filtered down even to the upper strata of the educated 
public and to the additional fact that the subject matter 
is so incongruous to Enghsh thought, the first object of 
the translator from the Old Irish must continue to be, for 
some time to come, rather exactness in rendering than 
elegance, even at the risk of the translation appearing 
laboured and puerile. This should not, however, be carried 
to the extent of distorting his own idiom in order to imitate 
the idiomatic turns and expressions of the original. In 
this translation, I have endeavoured to keep as close to 
the sense and the literary form of the original as possible, 
but when there is conflict between the two desiderata, I 
have not hesitated to give the first the preference. I have 
also made use of a deliberately archaic English as, in my 
opinion, harmonizing better with the subject. It means 
much to the reader of the translation of an Old Irish text 
to have the atmosphere of the original transferred as per- 
fectly as may be, and this end is attained by preserving its 
archaisms and quaintness of phrase, its repetitions and 
inherent crudities and even, without suppression or attenua- 
tion, the grossness of speech of our less prudish ancestors, 
which is also a mark of certain primitive habits of life but 
which an over-fastidious translator through delicacy of 
feeling might wish to omit. These side-lights on the semi- 



barbaric setting of the Old Irish sagas are of scarcely less 
interest and value than the literature itself. 

The Tain Bo Cualnge, hke most of the Irish saga-tales 
as they have come down to us in their Middle Irish dress, 
is chiefly in prose, but interspersed with verse. The verse- 
structure is very intricate and is mostly in strophic form 
composed of verses of fixed syllabic length, rhymed and 
richly furnished with alliteration. There is a third form 
of speech which is neither prose nor verse, but partakes 
of the character of both, a sort of irregular, rhymeless verse, 
without strophic division and exceedingly rich in allitera- 
tion, internal rhyme and assonance. This kind of speech, 
resembling in a way the dithyrambic passages in the Old 
Testament, was known to the native Irish scholars as rose 
and it is usually marked in the manuscripts by the abbre- 
viation R. It was used in short, impetuous outbursts on 
occasions of triumph or mourning. 

While, on the whole, I believe the student will feel himself 
safer with a prose translation of a poem than with one in 
verse, it has seemed to me that a uniform translation of 
the Tain Bo Cualnge in prose would destroy one of its special 
characteristics, which is that in it both prose and verse 
are mingled. It was not in my power, however, to re- 
produce at once closely and clearly the metrical schemes 
and the rich musical quality of the Irish and at the same 
time compress within the compass of the Irish measure 
such an analytic language as EngUsh, which has to express 
by means of auxiliaries what is accomplished in Early Irish 
by inflection. But I hope to have accomplished the main 
object of distinguishing the verse from the prose without 
sacrifice of the thought by the simple device of turning the 
verse-passages into lines of the same syllabic length as 
those of the original — which is most often the normal 
seven-syllable line— but without any attempt at imitating 
the rhjnne-system or alliteration. 

Preface ^^^^P xxix 

ell the volume of the book, the notes 
have been reduced to the indispensable minimum, reserving 
the commentary and the apparatus of illustrative material 
for another volume, which we hope some day to be able to 
issue, wherein more definitely critical questions can be dis- 
cussed. There are a few Irish words which have been re- 
tained in the translation and which require a word of ex- 
planation : The Old Irish geis (later, also geas * ; plural 
geasa) has as much right to a place in the English vocabulary 
as the Polynesian word tabu, by which it is often translated. 
It is sometimes Englished " injunction," " condition," 
" prohibition," " bond," " ban," " charm," " magical de- 
cree," or translated by the Scots-Gaelic " spells," none 
of which, however, expresses the idea which the word had 
-according to the ancient laws of Ireland. It was an adjura- 
tion by the honour of a man, and was either positive or 
negative. The person adjured was either compelled or 
made in duty bound to do a certain thing, or, more commonly, 
was prohibited from doing it. The Old Irish gilla is often 
translated " vassal," " youth," " boy," " fellow," " mes- 
senger," " servant," " page," *' squire " and " guide," 
but these words bear false connotations for the society 
of the time, as does the Anglicised form of the word, " gillie," 
which smacks of modern sport. It meant originally a 
youth in the third of the six ages of man. Compare the 
sense of the word varlef or valet in English, which was once 
*' a more honourable title ; for all young gentlemen, untill 
they come to be eighteen years of age, were termed so " 
(Cotgrave), and of the same word in Old French, which was 
*' un jeune homme de condition honorable " (J. Loth, Les 
MaUnogion, I, page 40, note). A liss or rath is a fortified 
place enclosed by a circular mound or trench, or both. A 
dun is a fortified residence surrounded by an earthen ram- 
part. In the case of names of places and persons, I have 
* Pfonounced gesh or gas. 



thought it best to adhere as closely as possible to the spell- 
ings used in the LL. manuscript itself. It is of the utmost 
importance to get the names of Irish places and of Irish 
heroes correctly determined and to discard their Enghsh 
Corrupted spellings. There are certain barbarisms, how- 
ever, such as Slane (Slemain), Boyne (Boann), and perhaps 
even Cooley (Cualnge), which have been stereotyped in 
their English dress and nothing is to be gained by reforming 
them. The forms Erin (dative of Eriu, the genuine and 
poetic name of the island) and Alha have been retained 
throughout instead of the hybrids " Ireland " and " Scot- 
land." Final e is occasionally marked with a grave {e.g. 
Mane, Dare) to show that it is not silent as it often is in 

1 quite perceive that I have not always succeeded in 
reproducing the precise shade of meaning of words certain 
of which had become antiquated and even unintelligible 
to the native scholars of the later Middle Irish period them- 
selves. This is especially true of the passages in rose, 
which are fortunately not numerous and which were prob- 
ably intentionally made as obscure and allusive as possible, 
the object being, perhaps, as much the music of the words 
as the sense. Indeed, in some cases, I have considered 
myself fortunate if I have succeeded in getting their mere 
drift. No one takes to heart more than the present writer 
the truth of Zimmer's remark, that " it needs no great 
courage to affirm that not one of the living Celtic scholars, 
with all the aids at their disposal, possesses such a ready 
understanding of the contents of, for example, the most 
important Old Irish saga-text, '* The Cualnge Cattle-raid," 
as was required thirty or more years ago in Germany of 
a good Gymnasium graduate in the matter of the Homeric 
poems and without aids of any kind." * However, in 

* " Es gehort keine grosse Kiihnheit dazu zu behaupten, dass 
keiner der lebenden Keltologen beispielsweise von dem wichtigstea 



spite of its defects, I trust I have not incurred the censure 
of Don Quijote ** by doing what he accuses bad translators 
of and shown the wrong side of the tapestry, thereby ob- 
scuring the beauty and exactness of the work, and I ven- 
ture to hope that my translation may prove of service in 
leading students to take an interest in the language and 
literature of Ireland. 

altirischen Sagentext ' Der Rinderraub von Cualnge ' . . . mit 
alien vorhandenen Hilfsmitteln ein solches fortlaufendes Verstandnis 
des Inhalts hat, wie von einem guten Gymnasialabiturienten hin- 
sichtlich der homerischen Gedichte ohne jegliches Hilfsmittel vor 
gut 30 Jahren in Deutschland verlangt wurde." — Die Kultur der 
Gegenwart, herausgegeben von Paul Hinneberg, Berlin, 1909. Teil 
I, Abt. xi, I. S. 75. 

** Part II, chap. Ixii (Gamier Hermanos edition, page 711). 


(Our Bibliography has no Pretension at being Com- 

The Tain has been analysed by J. T. Gilbert, in the facsimile 
edition of LU., pages xvi-xviii, based on O'Curry's un- 
published account written about 1853 '> by Eugene O'Curry 
in his " Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient 
Irish History/' pages 28-40, DubHn, 1861 ; by John Rhys 
in his " Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as 
illustrated by Celtic Heathendom," page 136, the Hibbert 
Lectures, London, 1898 ; by J. A. MacCuUoch in " The 
Religion of the Ancient Celts," pages 127 and 141, London, 
191 1 ; in the Celtic Magazine, vol. xiii, pages 427-430, 
Inverness, 1888 ; by Don. Mackinnon in the Celtic Review, 
vol. iv, page 92, Edinburgh, 1907-8 ; by H. d'Arbois 
de Jubainville, in Bibliotheque de Fecole des chartes, tome 
xl, pages 148-150, Paris, 1879 ; by Bryan O'Looney, in the 
Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Second Series, 
vol. I, pages 242-248, Dublin, 1879 '> ^Y H. Lichten- 
berger, " Le Poeme et la Legende des Nibelungen," pages 
432-434, Paris, 1891 ; by Eleanor Hull, in "A Text Book of 
Irish Literature," Pt. I, p. 24, Dublin and London, 1906; 
by Victor Tourneur, " La Formation du Tain B6 Ciiahige/' 
in Melanges Godefroid Kurth, II, 413-424, Liege, 1908 ; by 
E. C. Quiggin, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, nth edition, 
page 626. 

The text of the Tdin is found in whole or in part in the 



Works on the Tain B6 Cualnge xxxiii 

facsimile reprints published by the Royal Irish Academy, 
Dublin, 1870 and following ; viz. : the Book of Leinster, 
folios 53b-io4b ; the Book of the Dun Cow, fohos 55a-82b, 
and the Yellow Book of Lecan, folios i7a-53a ; in " Die 
Altirische Heldensage, Tain B6 Cualnge, herausgegeben 
von Ernst Windisch, Irische Texte, Extraband, Leipzig, 
1905 " ; from LU. and YBL., by John Strachan and J. G. 
O'Keeffe, as a supplement to Eriu, vol. i, Dublin,i904 and fol.; 
our references to LU. and YBL. are from this edition as 
far as it appeared ; from that point, the references to YBL. 
are to the pages of the facsimile edition ; the LU. text of 
several passages also is given by John Strachan in his 
" Stories from the Tain," which first appeared in Irisleabhar 
na Gaedhilge (" The Gaelic Journal "), Dublin ; reprinted, 
London and Dublin, 1908; Max Nettlau, "The Fer Diad 
Episode of the Tain Bo Cuailnge," Revue Celtique, tome 
X, pages 330-346, tome xi, pages 23-32, 318-343 ; '' The 
Fragment of the Tain Bo Cuailnge in MS. Egerton 93,*' 
Revue Celtique, tome xiv, pages 254-266, tome xv, pages 
62-78, 198-208; R. Thurneysen, "Tdin Bo Ctiailghni nach 
H.2.17," Zeitschrift fiir Celtische Philologie, Bd. viii, S. 
525-554 ; E. Windisch, " Tain B6 Cuailnge nach der Hand- 
schrift Egerton 1782," Zeitschrift fiir Celtische Philologie, 
Bd. ix, S. 121-158. The text of "The Fight at the Ford," 
from the Murphy MS. 103 (written about 1760), is printed 
in Irisleabhar Muighe Nuadhad, Dublin, 1911, pp. 84-90. 
The Tain has been translated by Bryan O'Looney in a 
manuscript entitled " Tain Bo Cualnge. Translated from 
the original vellum manuscript known as the Book of 
Leinster, in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. To 
which are added the ancient Prologues, Prefaces, and the 
Pretales or Stories, Adventures which preceded the principal 
Expedition or Tain, from various vellum MSS. in the 
Libraries of Trinity College and the Royal Irish Academy, 
Dublin, 1872." (A good translation, for its time. For 

xxxiv Works on the Tain Bo Cualnge 

O'Looney's works on the Tain, see the Proceedings of the 
Royal Irish Academy, Second Series, Vol. i. No. ii. Polite 
Literature and Antiquities, Dublin, 1875 ; for W. J. Hen- 
nessy's, see The Academy, No. 873, Lee, " Dictionary of 
National Biography,'' xxv, 1891, pages 424-425, and V. 
Tourneur, " Esquisse d'une histoire des etudes celtiques," 
page 90, note 5.) The Royal Irish Academy contains another 
manuscript translation of the Tain (24, M, 39), by John 
O'Daly, 1857. It is a wretched translation. In one place, 
O'Daly speaks of William Rily as the translator. L. 
Winifred Faraday's " The Cattle- Raid of Cualnge," London, 
1904, is based on LU. and YBL. Two copies of a com- 
plete translation of the LL. text dating from about 1850 is 
in the possession of John Quinn, Esq., of New York City. 
H. d'Arbois de Jubainville translated the Tain from the 
LL. text, but with many omissions : *' Enlevement [du 
Taureau Divin et] des Vaches de Cooley," Revue Celtique, 
tomes xxviii-xxxii, Paris, 1907 and fl. Eleanor Hull's " The 
CuchuUin Saga," London, 1898, contains (pages 11 1-227) 
an analysis of the Tain and a translation by Standish 
H. O'Grady of portions of the Add. 18748 text. " The Tdin, 
An Irish Epic told in English Verse," by Mary A. Hutton, 
Dublin, 1907, and Lady Augusta Gregory's, " Cuchulain of 
Muirthemne," London, 1903, are paraphrases. The episode 
"The Boyish Feats of Cuchulinn" was translated by 
Eugene O'Curry, " On the Manners and Customs of the 
Ancient Irish," Vol, i. Introduction, pages 359-366, and 
the episode " The Fight of Ferdiad and Cuchulaind," was 
translated by W. K. Sullivan, ibid., Vol. ii. Lectures, 
Vol. i. Appendix, pages 413-463. 

Important studies on the Tain have come from the pen 
of Heinrich Zimmer : " Uber den compilatorischen Charakter 
der irischen Sagentexte im sogenannten Lebor na hUidre," 
Kuhn's Zeitschrift fiir vergleichende Sprachforschung, Bd. 
xxviii, 1887, pages 417-689, and especially pages 426-554 ; 

Works on the Tain B6 Cualnge xxxv 

Keltische Beitrage," Zeitschrift fiir deutsches Alterthum 
und deutsche Litteratur, Vol. xxxii, 1888, pages 196-334 ; 
" Beitrage zur Erklarung irischer Sagentexte," Zeitschrift 
fiir Cehische Philologie, Bd. i, pages 74-101, and Bd. iii, pages 
285-303. See also, William Ridge way, " The Date of the 
first Shaping of the Cuchulainn Saga," Oxford, 1907 ; H. 
d'Arbois de Jubainville, " Etude sur le Tain Bo Cualnge," 
Revue Celtique, tome xxviii, 1907, pages 17-40 ; Alfred Nutt, 
" Cuchulainn, the Irish Achilles," in Popular Studies in 
Mythology, Romance and Folklore, No. 8, London, 1900. 
The Celtic Magazine, Vol. xiii, pages 319-326, 351-359, Inver- 
ness, 1888, contains an English translation of a degenerated 
Scottish Gaelic version taken down by A. A. Carmichael, in 
Benbecula ; the Gaelic text was printed in the Transactions of 
the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol. ii. In the same volume 
of the Celtic Magazine, pages 514-516, is a translation of 
a version of the T4in, taken down in the island of Eigg. 
Eleanor Hull's " Cuchulain, the Hound of Ulster," London, 
1 91 1, is a retelling of the story for younger readers. The 
following, bearing more or less closely upon the Tain, are 
also to be mentioned : Harry G. Tempest, " Dun Dealgan, 
Cuchulain's Home Fort," Dundalk, 1910 ; A. M. Skelly, 
*' Cuchulain of Muirtheimhne," Dubhn, 1908 ; Standish 
O'Grady, " The Coming of Cuculain," London, 1894, " In 
the Gates of the North," Kilkenny, 1901, " Cuculain, A 
Prose Epic," London, 1882 and the same author's " History 
of Ireland: the Heroic Period," London, 1878-80 ; '* The 
High Deeds of Finn, and other Bardic Romances of 
Ancient Ireland," by T. W. RoUeston, London, 1910 ; 
Stephen Gwynn, " Celtic Sagas Re-told," in his " To-day 
and To-morrow in Ireland," pages 38-58, Dublin, 1903 ; 
Edward Thomas, " Celtic Stories," Oxford, 1911 ; " Child- 
ren of Kings," by W. Lorcan O'Byrne, London, 1904, and 
" The Boy Hero of Erin," by Charles Squire, London, 

xxxvi Works on the Tain Bo Cualnge 

Among the many poems which have taken their theme 
from the T4in and the deeds of Cuchulain may be men- 
tioned : " The Foray of Queen Meave," by Aubrey de Vere, 
Poetic Works, London, 1882, vol. ii, pages 255-343 ; " The 
Old Age of Queen Maeve," by William Butler Yeats, 
Collected Works, vol. I, page 41, London, 1908 ; " The 
Defenders of the Ford," by Alice Milligan, in her "Hero 
Lays," page 50, Dublin, 1908 ; George Sigerson, " Bards 
of the Gael and the Gall," London, 1897 ; " The Tain- 
Quest," by Sir Samuel Ferguson, in his " Lays of the Wes- 
tern Gael and other Poems," Dublin, 1897 ; " The Red 
Branch Crests, A Trilogy," by Charles Leonard Moore, 
London, 1906 ; " The Laughter of Scathach," by Fiona 
Macleod, in " The Washer of the Ford and Barbaric Tales " ; 
Hector Maclean, " Ultonian Hero-Ballads collected in the 
Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland," Glasgow, 1892 ; 
ballad versions from Scotland are found in Leabhar na 
Feinne, pages i and fol., in J. G. Campbell's *'The Fians," 
pages 6 and fol., and in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. 

Finally, scenes from the Tain have been dramatized 
by Canon Peter O'Leary, in the Cork " Weekly Examiner," 
April 14, 1900 and fol., by Sir Samuel Ferguson, "The 
Naming of Cuchulain : A Dramatic Scene," first played in 
Belfast, March 9, 1910 ; in " The Triumph of Maeve," 
A Romance in dramatic form, 1906 ; " Cuchulain," etc., 
(A Cycle of Plays, by S. and J. Varian, Dublin), and in 
" The Boy-Deeds of Cuchulain," A Pageant in three Acts, 
performed in Dublin in 1909. 

Here beginneth Tain Bo Ciialnge 
The Cualnge Cattle-raid 



Once of a time, that Ailill and Medb had spread then- LL. fo. 53. 
royal bed in Cruachan, the stronghold of Connacht, such 
was the pillov/-talk that befell betwixt them: 

Quoth x\iiili : " True is the saying, lady, * She is a well- 
off woman that is a rich man's wife.' " " Aye,that she is," 
answered the wife ; " but wherefore opin'st thou so ? " 
" For this," Ailill replied, " that thou art this day better off 
than the day that first I took thee." Then answered Medb : 
' ' As well-off was I before I ever saw thee. " "It was a wealth , 
forsooth, we never heard nor knew of," Ailill said ; " but 
a woman's wealth was all thou hadst, and foes from lands 
next thine were used to carry off the spoil and booty that 
they took from thee." " Not so was I," quoth Medb ; 
" the High King of Erin himself was my sire, Eocho Fedlech 
(* the Enduring') son of Finn, by name, who was son of 
Findoman, son of Finden, son of Findguin, son of Rogen 
Ruad (* the Red'), son of Rigen, son of Blathacht, son of 
Beothacht, son of Enna Agnech, son of Oengus Turbech. 
Of daughters, had he six : Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, 
Mugain and Medb, myself, that was the noblest and seem- 
liest of them. Twas I was the goodliest of them in bounty 

1 B 

2 ' Tain Bo Cuainge 

W. 17. and gift-giving, ^in riches and treasures.^ 'Twas I was 
best of them in battle and strife and combat. Twas I 
that had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries of the sons of 
aUens exiled from their own land, and as many more of the 
sons of freemen of the land. And there were ten men with 
every one of these hirelings,^ and nine men with every hire- 
Hng,2 and eight men with every hireling, and seven men 
with every hireling, and six men with every hireling, and 
five men with every hireling, ^ and four men with every 
hireling,^ and three men with every hireling, and two 
men with every hireling, and one hireling with every hire- 
ling. These were as a standing household-guard," con- 
tinued Medb ; " hence hath my father bestowed one of 
the five provinces of Erin upon me, even the province of 
Cruachan ; wherefore * Medb of Cruachan ' am I called. 
Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad (* the Red'), king 
of Leinster, to seek me * for a wife, and I refused him ; * 
and from Carbre Niafer (' the Champion ') son of Ross Ruad 
(' the Red '), king of Temair,** ^ to woo me, and I refused him ; ^ 
and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach 
(* the Mighty'), king of Ulster, *and I refused him in like 
wise.^ They came from Eocho Bee ('the Small'), and I 
went not ; for 'tis I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such 
as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the 
men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without 
jealousy, without fear. For should he be mean, the man 
with whom I should live, we were ill-matched together, 
♦IX. fo.54a. inasmuch as I am great * in largess and gift-giving, and it 
would be a disgrace for my husband if I should be better 

1-1 Stowe. 

*—2 Stowe and H. 1. 13. 
'•••* Stowe and H. I. 13. 
*•••* Stowe and Add. 

« That is, from the supreme king of Ireland. 
^•••* Stowe and Add. 
«•••* Stowe and Add. 

The Pillow-talk 3 

at spending than he, ^ and for it to be said that I was superior 
in wealth and treasures to him/ while no disgrace would 
it be were one as great as the other." Were my husband 
a coward, 'twere as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself 
and alone break battles and fights and combats, and 'twould 
be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full 
of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally 
bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I 
should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was 
a time that I had not my paramour.^ Howbeit, such a 
husband have I found, namely in thee thyself, Ailill son 
of Ross Ruad (' the Red ') of Leinster. Thou wast not 
churhsh ; thou wast not jealous ; thou wast not a sluggard. 
It was I plighted thee, and gave purchase-price to thee, 
which of right belongs to the bride — of clothing, namely, 
the raiment of twelve men, a chariot worth thrice seven 
bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of red gold,*' the weight 
of thy left forearm of silvered bronze. Whoso brings shame 
and sorrow and madness upon thee, no claim for compensa- 
tion nor satisfaction hast thou therefor that I myself have 
not, 2 but it is to me the compensation belongs," ^ said 
Medb, ** for a man dependent upon a woman's maintenance 
is what thou art." ** 

" Nay, not such was my state," said Ailill; " but two 
brothers had I ; one of them over Temair, the other over 
Leinster ; namely, Finn, over Leinster, and Carbre, over 
Temair. I left the kingship to them because they were 

^•••^ Stowe and, similarly, Add. 

* A short sentence in LL., which is probably corrupt, is omitted 

* Literally, " A man behind (in) the shadow of another." 
' Instead of a ring, which would be given to the bride. 
2-.2 Add. and H. i. 13. 

«* For a detailed explanation of this entire passage, see H. Zim- 
mer, in the Sitzungsberichte der Koniglich Preussischen Akademie 
der Wissenschaften, 16 Februar, 191 1, philosophisch historischen 
Classe, Seite 217. 

4 • Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 52. older but not superior to me in largess and bounty. Nor 
heard I of province in Erin under woman's keeping but 
this province alone. And for this I came and assumed the 
kingship here as my mother's successor ; for Mata of Muresc, 
daughter of Magach ^ of Connacht,^ was my mother. And 
who could there be for me to have as my queen better than 
thyself, being, as thou wert, daughter of the High King of 
Erin ? '* " Yet so it is," pursued Medb, " my fortune is 
greater than thine." " I marvel at that," Ailill made 
answer, ** for there is none that hath greater treasures and 
riches and wealth than I : yea, to my knowledge there is not." 

1-1 Add. and H. i. 13. 



V. 62. Then were brought to them the least precious of their 
possessions, that they might know which of them had the 
more treasures, riches and wealth. Their pails and their 
cauldrons and their iron- wrought vessels, their jugs and 

k their keeves and their eared pitchers were fetched to them. 
Likewise, their rings and their bracelets and their thumb- 
rings and their golden treasures were fetched to them, and 
their apparel, both purple and blue and black and green, 
yellow, vari-coloured and gray, dun, mottled and brindled. 

Their numerous flocks of sheep were led in from fields and 
meeds and plains. These were counted and compared, and 
found to be equal, of like size, of like number ; however, 
there was an uncommonly fine ram over Medb's sheep, and 
he was equal in worth to a bondmaid, but a corresponding 
ram was over the ewes of Ailill. 

Their horses and steeds and studs were brought from pas- 
tures and paddocks. There was a noteworthy horse in 
Medb's herd and he was of the value of a bondmaid ; a 
horse to match was found among Ailill's. 

Then were their numerous droves of swine driven from 
woods and shelving glens and wolds. These were numbered 
and counted and claimed. There was a noteworthy boar 
with Medb, and yet another with Ailill. 

Next they brought before them their droves of cattle 

1...1 Add. and Stowe. 

6 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 77. and their herds and their roaming flocks from the brakes 

and wastes of the province. 

These were counted and numbered and claimed, and 
were the same for both, equal in size, equal in number, 
except only there was an especial bull of the bawn of Ailill, 
and he was a calf of one of Medb's cows, and Finnbennach 
(* the Whitehomed') was his name. But he, deeming it no 
*LL,fo.54b. honour to be in a woman's possession, *had left and gone 
over to the kine of the king. And it was the same to Medb 
as if she owned not a pennyworth, forasmuch as she had 
not a bull of his size amongst her cattle. 

Then it was that macRoth the messenger was summoned 
to Medb, and Medb strictly bade macRoth to learn where 
there might be found a bull of that likeness in any of the 
provinces of Erin. " Verily," said macRoth, " I know 
where the bull is that is best and better again, in the province 
of Ulster, in the hundred of Cualnge, in the house of Dare 
son of Fiachna ; even Donn Cualnge (' the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge') he is called." 

'* Go thou to him, macRoth, and ask for me of Dare the 
loan for a year of the Brown Bull of Cualnge, and at the 
year's end he shall have the meed of the loan, to wit, fifty 
heifers and the Donn Cualnge himself. And bear thou a 
further boon with thee, macRoth. Should the border- 
folk and those of the country grudge the loan of that rare 
jewel that is the Brown Bull of Cualnge, let Dare himself 
come with his bull, and he shall get a measure equalling 
his own land of the smooth Plain of Ai and a chariot of the 
worth of thrice seven bondmaids and he shall enjoy my 
own close friendship." " 

Thereupon the messengers fared forth to the house of 
Dare son of Fiachna. This was the number wherewith 
macRoth went, namely, nine couriers. Anon welcome was 
• Literally, " Hahehit amicitiam fermoris met." 

The Occasion of the Tain 7 

lavished on macRoth in Dare's house — fitting welcome it 
was — chief messenger of all was macRoth. Dare asked of 
macRoth what had brought him upon the journey and 
why he was come. The messenger announced the cause 
for which he was come and related the contention between 
Medb and Ailill. 

" And it is to beg the loan of the Brown Bull of Cualnge 
to match the Whitehorned that I am come," said he ; *' and 
thou shalt receive the hire of his loan, even fifty heifers 
and the Brown of Cualnge himself. And yet more I may 
add : Come thyself with thy bull and thou shalt have of 
the land of the smooth soil of Mag Ai as much as thou 
ownest here, and a chariot of the worth of thrice seven bond- 
maids and enjoy Medb's friendship to boot." 

At these words Dare was well pleased, and he leaped for 
joy so that the seams of his flock-bed rent in twain beneath 

"By the truth of our conscience," said he; "however 
the Ulstermen take it, ^ whether ill or well, ^ this time this 
jewel shall be delivered to Ailill and to Medb, the Brown 
of Cualnge to wit, into the land of Connacht." Well 
pleased was macRoth at the words of the son of Fiachna. 

Thereupon they were served, and straw and fresh rushes 
were spread under them. The choicest of food was brought 
to them and a feast was served to them and soon they were 
noisy and drunken. And a discourse took place between 
two of the messengers. " 'Tis true what I say," spoke the 
one ; " good is the man in whose house we are." " Of a 
truth, he is good." " Nay, is there one among all the men 
of Ulster better than he ? " persisted the first. " In sooth, 
there is," answered the second messenger. " Better is 
Conchobar whose man he is, ^ Conchobar who holds the 
kingship of the province.* And though all the Ulstermen 

^•••* Stowe and Add. 
2-"2 Stowe and Add. 

8 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. I20. gathered around him, it were no shame for them. Yet is it 
passing good of Dare, that what had been a task for the four 
mighty provinces of Erin to bear away from the land of 
Ulster, even the Brown Bull of Cualnge, is surrendered so 
freely to us nine footmen." 

Hereupon a third runner had his say : " What is this 
ye dispute about ? " he asked. " Yon runner says, ' A 
good man is the man in whose house we are.' " " Yea, 
he is good," saith the other. " Is there among all the 
Ulstermen any that is better than he ? " demanded the 
first runner further. " Aye, there is," answered the 
second runner; "better is Conchobar whose man he is; 
and though all the Ulstermen gathered around him, it 
were no shame for them. Yet, truly good it is of Dare, that 
what had been a task for four of the grand provinces of 
Erin to bear away out of the borders of Ulster is handed 
over even unto us nine footmen." " I would not grudge 
to see a retch of blood and gore in the mouth whereout 
^LL. fo. 55 a. that was said ; for, were the bull not given *\\iningly, 
yet should he be taken by force ! " 

At that moment it was that Dare macFiachna's chief 
steward came into the house and with him a man with 
drink and another with food, and he heard the foolish words 
^ . of the runners ; and anger came upon him, and he set 
down their food and drink for them and he neither said to 
them, " Eat," nor did he say, " Eat not." 

Straightway he went into the house where was Dare 
macFiachna and said : " Was it thou that hast given that 
notable jewel to the messengers, the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge ? " " Yea, it was I," Dare made answer. "Verily, 
it was not the part of a king to give him. For it is true 
what they say : Unless thou hadst bestowed him of thine 
own free will, so wouldst thou yield him in despite of thee 
by the host of Ailill and Medb and by the great cunning 
of Fergus macRoig." " I swear by the gods whom I wor- 

The Occasion of the Tain 9 

ship," ^ spoke Dare/ " they shall in no wise take by foul 
means what they cannot take by fair! " 

There they abide till morning. Betimes on the morrow 
the runners arise and proceed to the house where is Dare. 
" Acquaint us, lord, how we may reach the place where 
the Brown Bull of Cualnge is kept." " Nay then," saith 
Dare ; " but were it my wont to deal foully with mes- 
sengers or with travelling folk or with them that go by the 
road, not one of you would depart alive ! " " How say est 
thou ? " quoth mac Roth. " Great cause there is," replied 
Dar^ ; " ye said, unless I yielded in good sort, I should yield 
to the might of Ailill's host and Medb's and the great 
cunning of Fergus." 

" Even so," said macRoth, " whatever the runners 
drunken with thine ale and thy viands have said, 'tis not 
for thee to heed nor mind, nor yet to be charged on Ailill 
and on Medb." " For all that, macRoth, this time I will 
not give my bull, if ever I can help it ! " 

Back then the messengers go till they arrive at Cruachan» 
the stronghold of Connacht. Medb asks their tidings, and 
macRoth makes known the same : that they had not brought 
his bull from Dare. " And the reason ? " demanded 
Medb. MacRoth recounts to her how the dispute arose. 
'* There is no need to polish knots over such affairs as that, 
macRoth; for it was known," said Medb, " if the Brown 
Bull of Cualnge would not be given with their will, he would 
be taken in their despite, and taken he shall be ! " 

^ To this point is recounted the Occasion of the Tain.^ 
^•••1 Stowe and Add. 2... 2 stowe and Add. 




2 A MIGHTY host was now assembled by the men of Con- 
nacht, that is, by AiHU and Medb, and they sent word to 

W. i6i. the three other provinces, and^ messengers were despatched 
from Medb to the Mane that they should gather in Cruach- 
an, the seven Mane with their seven divisions ; to wit : 
Mane " Motherlike," Mane " Fatherlike,'' and Mane " All- 
comprehending " ; 3 'twas he that possessed the form of 
his mother and of his father and the dignity of them both ; ^ 
Mane " Mildly-submissive," and Mane " Greatly-submis- 
sive," Mane " Boastful " ^ and Mane " the Dumb." * 

Other messengers were despatched ^ by Ailill ^ to the sons 
of Maga ; to wit : to Get (' the First ') son of Maga, Anluan 
(.' the BriUiant Light ') son of Maga, and Maccorb (* Ghariot- 
child') son of Maga, and Bascell ('the Lunatic') son of 
Maga, and En (' the Bird') son of Maga, Doche son of 
Maga ; and Scandal (' Insult ') son of Maga. 

These came, and this was their muster, thirty hundred 
armed men. Other messengers were despatched from them 
to Gormac Gonlongas (' the Exile ') son of Gonchobar and 
to Fergus macRoig, and they also came, thirty hundred 
their number. 

1-1 Add. 

2--2 LU. 1-2; with these words, the LU. version begins, fo. 55a. 

3., .3 LU. 182. 

*•••■* Stowe and Add. ^-s Eg. 1782. 


lA Un 



Facsimii,E, Pagk sS~from Leabhar na h-Uidhri. 

The Rising-out of the Men of Connacht ii 

^ Now Cormac had three companies which came to Cru- 
achan.^ Before all, the first company. A covering of 
close-shorn ^ black ^ hair upon them. Green mantles and 
2 many-coloured cloaks ^ wound about them ; therein, 
silvern brooches. Tunics of thread of gold next to their 
skin, ^reaching down to their knees,* with interweaving ^ 

of red gold. Bright-handled swords they bore, with guards 
of silver. ^ Long shields they bore, and there was a broad, 
grey spearhead on a slender shaft in the hand of each man. ^ 
*' Is that Cormac, yonder ? " all and every one asked. 

I" Not he, indeed," Medb made answer. 
The second troop. Newly shorn hair they wore *and 
manes on the back of their heads,^ ' fair, comely indeed.'' 
Dark-blue cloaks they all had about them. Next to 
their skin, gleaming- white tunics,* ^with red orna- *ll. fo. 55b. 
mentation, reaching down to their calves.^ Swords they 
had with round hilts of gold and silvern fist-guards, 
• and shining shields upon them and five-pronged spears 
in their hands.® " Is yonder man Cormac ? " all the people 
asked. " Nay, verily, that is not he," Medb made answer. 
^° Then came ^^ the last troop. Hair cut broad they wore ; 
fair-yellow, deep-golden, loose-flowing back hair ^ down to 
their shoulders " upon them. Purple cloaks, fairly bedizened, 
about them ; golden, embellished brooches over their 
breasts ; ^^ and they had curved shields with sharp, chiselled 
edges around them and spears as long as the pillars of a 
king's house in the hand of each man.^ Fine, long, silken 
tunics ^3 with hoods ^^ they wore to the very instep. Together 
they raised their feet, and together they set them down 
again. " Is that Cormac, yonder ? " asked all. " Aye, 
it is he, i*this time,^*" Medb made answer. 

^•••1 LU. 7. 2.. .2 Add. 3-3 LU. 8. 

*• •* LU. 9. «-5 LU. 9-10. «•••« Eg 1782. 

'•••' Add. «--8 LU. 11-12. 9 •9 LU. 12-13. 

10.. ao Eg. 1782. "-ii LU. 16. 12.. .12 LU. 17-18 

^' •" LU. 15. 14 -i^ Eg. 1782. 

12 Tain 'Bo Cualnge 

W. 1 86. iThus the four provinces of Erin gathered in Cruachan 

Ai.^ They pitched their camp and quarters that night, so 
that a thick cloud of smoke and fire rose between the four 
fords of Ai, which are, Ath Moga, Ath Bercna, Ath Shssen 
and Ath Coltna. And they tarried for the full space of a 
fortnight in Cruachan, the hostel of Connacht, in wassail and 
drink and every disport, to the end that their march and 
muster might be easier. ^ And their poets and druids would 
not let them depart from thence till the end of a fortnight 
while awaiting good omen.^ And then it was that Medb 
bade her charioteer to harness her horses for her, that she 
might go to address herself to her druid, to seek for light 
and for augury from him. 

1-1 Eg. 1782. 2.. .a Lu. 20-21. 



VvHEN Medb was come to the place where her druid was, 
she craved Hght and augury of him. " Many there be,"' 
saith Medb, " who do part with their kinsmen and friends 
here to-day, and from their homes and their lands, from 
father and from mother ; and unless unscathed every one 
shall return, upon me will they cast their sighs and their 
ban, ^ for it is I that have assembled this levy. ^ Yet there 
goeth not forth nor stayeth there at home any dearer to 
me than are we to ourselves. And do thou discover for us 
whether we ourselves shall return, or whether we shall never 

And the druid made answer, " Whoever comes not, 
thou thyself shalt come." ^ " Wait, then," spake the 
charioteer, " let me wheel the chariot by the right,^ that 
thus the power of a good omen may arise that we return 
again." ^ Then the charioteer wheeled his chariot round 
and Medb went back ^ again, ^ when she espied a thing that 
surprised her : A lone virgin * of marriageable age * stand- 
ing on the hindpole of a chariot a little way off drawing nigh 
her. And thus the maiden appeared : Weaving lace was 
she, and in her right hand was a bordering rod of silvered 

" This heading is taken from the colophon at the end of the 

1-1 LU. 23-24. 2.. .2 Lu. 24-25. 

^ Eight-hand wise, as a sign of good omen. 
'•••» Stowe. 4... 4 Eg, iy82. 


14 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 204. bronze with its seven strips of red gold at the sides. A 
many-spotted green mantle around her ; a bulging, strong- 
headed pin ^of gold^ in the mantle over her bosom; -a. 
hooded tunic, with red interweaving, about her. ^ A ruddy, 
fair-faced countenance she had, ^ narrow below and broad 
above. ^ She had a blue-grey and laughing eye ; * each eye 
had three pupils.* ^ Dark and black were her eyebrows ; the 
soft, black lashes threw a shadow to the middle of her 
cheeks.^ Red and thin were her lips. Shiny and pearly 
were her teeth ; thou wouldst believe they were showers of 
white pearls that had rained into her head. Like to fresh 
Parthian crimson were her lips. As sweet as the strings of 
lutes *when long sustained they are played by master 
players' hands ® was the melodious sound of her voice and 
her fair speech. 

As white as snow in one night fallen was the sheen of 
her skin and her body that shone outside of her dress. 
Slender and very white were her feet ; rosy, even, sharp- 
round nails she had ; ' two sandals with golden buckles 
about them."^ Fair-yellow, long, golden hair she wore ; 
three braids of hair ^ she wore ; two tresses were wound ^ 
around her head ; the other tress ® from behind • threw 
a shadow down on her calves. ^° The maiden carried arms, 
and two black horses were under her chariot. ^° 

Medb gazed at her. " And what doest thou here 
*LL. fo. 56a. now, O maiden ? " asked Medb. " I impart * to thee 
thine advantage and good fortune in thy gathering and 
muster of the four mighty provinces of Erin against the 
land of Ulster on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge . " " Where- 
fore doest thou this for me ? " asked Medb. " Much cause 
have I. A bondmaid 'mid thy people am I." " Who of 

1-1 Eg. 1782. 2.. .2 Eg^ iy82. 3.. .3 Lu. 29. 

*•••* LU. 35-36. 5-6 LU. 31. 
••••* Adopting Windisch's emendation of the text. 
'•••' LU. 29. «•••« Eg. 1782. ••••» Add. 

"•••" LU. 36. 

The Foretelling 15 

my people art thou ^and what is thy name^? " asked 
Medb. " Not hard, in sooth, to say. The prophetess 
Fedelm, from the Sid (' the Fairy Mound') of Cruachan, *a 
poetess of Connacht ^ am I." ^" Whence comest thou ? " 
asked Medb. " From Alba, after learning prophetic skill," 
the maiden made answer. " Hast thou the form of divina- 
tion ? "^ "Verily, have I," the maiden said.^ *"Look, 
then, for me, how will my undertaking be." The maiden 
looked. Then spake Medb : — * 

" Good now, 

"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

^ Fedelm answered and spoke : ^ 

" Crimson-red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red ! " 

« " That is no true augury," « said Medb. "Verily, Con- 
chobar ' with the Ulstermen ' is in his * Pains ' in Emain ; 
thither fared my messengers ®and brought me true 
tidings ® ; naught is there that we need dread from Ulster's 
men. But speak truth, O Fedelm: — 

** Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

" Crimson-red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red!" 

* " That is no true augury.^ Cuscraid Mend (' the 
Stammerer ') of Macha, Conchobar's son, is in Inis Cuscraid 
(' Cuscraid's Isle ') in his ' Pains.' Thither fared my messen- 
gers ; naught need we fear from Ulster's men. But speak 
truth, O Fedelm: — 

•^ Eg. 1782. 2.. .3 Eg. 1782. 3.. .8 Lu. 39-41. 

••* Eg. 1782. 

Imhass forosna, ' illumination between the hands.' 

"5 Eg. 1782. «•••« LU. 44. '•••' Eg. 1782. 

•« Eg. 1782. ••••• LU. 48. 

i6 * Tain Bo Cualnge 

" Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

" Crimson -red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red ! " 

" Eogan, Durthacht's son, is in Rath Airthir (' the Eastern 

Rath') in his 'Pains.' Thither went my messengers. 

Naught need we dread from Ulster's men. But speak 

truth, O Fedelm: — 

" Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

" Crimson-red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red ! " 

" Celtchar, Uthechar's son, is in his fort ^ at Lethglas^ 

in his ' Pains,' ^ and a third of the Ulstermen with him.^ 

Thither fared my messengers. Naught have we to fear 

from Ulster's men. ^ And Fergus son of Roig son of 

Eochaid is with us here in exile, and thirty hundred with 

him.3 But speak truth, O Fedelm: — 

*' Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

" Crimson-red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red ! " 

" Meseemeth this not as it seemeth to thee," quoth Medb, 
" for when Erin's men shall assemble in one place, there 
quarrels will arise and broils, contentions and disputes 
amongst them about the ordering of themselves in the van 
or rear, at ford or river, over who shall be first at killing a 
boar or a stag or a deer or a hare. But, * look now again 
for us and * speak truth, O Fedelm : — 

'* Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid. 
How beholdest thou our host ? " 

" Crimson -red from blood they are ; 
I behold them bathed in red ! " 

Therewith she began to prophesy and to foretell the 
coming of Cuchulain to the men of Erin, and she chanted 
a lay : — 

1-1 LU. 50. 2.. .2 Lu. 49. 

»•••» LU. 50-51. 4...4 LU. 55. 

The Foretelling 17 

' « Fair, of deeds, the man I see ; 
Wounded sore is his fair skin ; 
On his brow shines hero's hght ; 
Victory's seat is in his face ! 

' Seven gems of champions brave 
Deck the centre of his orbs ; 
Naked are the spears he bears. 
And he hooks a red cloak round ! 

' Noblest face is his, I see ; 
He respects all womankind. 
Young the lad and fresh his hue. 
With a dragon's form in fight! 

' I know not who is the Hound, 
Culann's hight,* ^ of fairest fame ^ ; 
But I know full well this host 
Will be smitten red by him ! 

' Four small swords — a brilliant feat — 
He supports in either hand ; 
These he'll ply upon the host. 
Each to do its special deed ! 

" His Gae Bulga," too, he wields, 
With his sword and javelin. 
Lo, the man in red cloak girt 
Sets his foot on every hill ! 

" Two spears ^ from the chariot's left * 
He casts forth in orgy wild. 
And his form I saw till now 
Well I know will change its guise ! 

" On to battle now he comes ; 
If ye watch not, ye are doomed. 
This is he seeks ye in fight 
Brave Cuchulain, Sualtaim's son ! 

" All your host he'll smite in twain. 
Till he works your utter ruin. 

• The Eg. 1782 version of this poem differs in several details from 

• That is, Cu Chulain, ' the Hound of Culann.' 
»•••* Translating from LU. 65, Stowe and Add. 

• The Gae Bulga, ' barbed spear,' which only Cuchulain could 

2-.« Translating from LU. 72, Add. and Stowe ; 'from the left,' 
as a sign of enmity. 

i8 Tain Bo Cualnge 

yr All your heads ye'll leave with him. 

Fedelm, prophet-maid, hides not ! 

'* Gore shall flow from warriors' wounds ; 
Long 'twill live in memory. 
♦ *Bodies hacked and wives in tears. 

Through the Smith's Hound " whom I see ! " 

Thus far the Augury and the Prophecy and the Pre- 
face of the Tale, and the Occasion of its invention and 
conception, and the Pillow-talk which Ailill and Medb had 
in Cruachan. ^Next follows the Body of the Tale itself.^ 

• That is, Cuchulain. See page 17. 
»-i Stowe and Add. 


301, and the Beginning of the Expedition and the Names of 
the Roads which the hosts of the four of the five grand 
provinces of Erin took into the land of Ulster. ^ On Monday 
after Summer's end ^ ^ they set forth and proceeded : ^ 

3 South-east from Cruachan Ai,^ by Mag Cruimm, over 
Tuaim Mona (' the Hill of Turf '), by Turloch Teora Crich 
(* the Creek of three Lands '), by Cul (' the Nook ') of Silinne, 
by Dubloch ('Black Lough'), ^by Fid Dubh ('Black 
Woods'),* by Badbgna, by Coltain, by the Shannon, by 
Glune Gabur, by Mag Trega, by Tethba in the north, by 
Tethba in the south, by Cul (' the Nook'), by Ochain, 
northwards by Uatu, eastwards by Tiarthechta, by Ord 
(* the Hammer'), by Slaiss (' the Strokes '), ^ southwards,^ 
by Indeoin (' the Anvil'), by Carn, by Meath, by Ortrach, 
by Findglassa Assail, ('White Stream of Assail'), by 
Drong, by Delt, by Duelt, by Delinn, by Selaig, by 
Slabra, by Slechta, where swords hewed out roads before 
Medb and Ailill, by Cul ('the Nook') of Siblinne, by 
Dub ('the Blackwater'), by Ochonn ® southwards, « by 
Catha, by Cromma 'southwards,'' by Tromma, ® eastwards ® 
by Fodromma, by Slane, by Gort Slane, ^ to the south of ^ 
Druim Licce, by Ath Gabla, by Ardachad (* Highfield'), 

1- -1 LU. 81. 2...2 Eg. 1782. 

3.. .3 Stowe and Add. *•••* LU. 87, Stowe and Add. 

5—5 LU. 96 and Stowe. «-« Eg. 1782. '-' Eg. 1782. 

«-8 LU. 113. »•••» LU. 116. 


20 Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 356. ^ northwards ^ by Feorainn, by Finnabair (' White Plain '^), 
by Assa ^ southwards, ^ by Airne, by Aurthuile, by Druim 
Salfind (' Salfind Ridge '), by Druim Cain, by Druim Caim- 
thechta, by Druim macDega, by the Httle Eo Dond (' Brown 
Tree '), by the great Eo Dond, by Meide in Togmaill {' Fer- 
ret's Neck'), by Meide in Eoin, (* Bird's Neck'), by Bailie 
(* the Town '), by Aile, by Dall Scena, by Ball Scena, by Ross 
Mor ('Great Point'), by Scuap ('the Broom'), by Im- 
scuap, by Cenn Fema, by Anmag, by Fid Mor (' Great 
Wood ') in Crannach of Cualnge, ^ by Colbtha, by Crond in 
Cualnge,^ by Druim Cain on the road to Midluachar, *from 
Finnabair of Cualnge. It is at that point that the hosts of 
Erin divided over the province in pursuit of the bull. For 
it was by way of those places they went until they reached 
Finnabair. Here endeth the Title, The Story begineth 
in order.* 

»-i LU. 119. 2... 2 Lu. 121. 

3-3 LU. 146-148. ♦•••* LU. 149-161. 



389. On the first stage the hosts went ^ from Cniachan,^ they 
slept the night at Cul Sihnne, ^ where to-day is Cargin's 
Lough. 2 And ^in that place ^ was fixed the tent of Ailill 
son of Ross, * and the trappings were arranged, both bedding 
and bed-clothes.* The tent of Fergus macRoig was on his 
right hand ; Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, was be- 
side him ; Ith macEtgaith next to that ; Fiachu mac- 
Firaba, ^ the son of Conchobar's daughter,^ at its side ; 
«Conall Cernach at its side,® Gobnenn macLumig at 
the side of that. The place of Ailill's tent was on the 
right on the march, and thirty hundred men of Ulster 
beside him. And the thirty hundred men of Ulster on 
his right hand had he to the end that the whispered talk 
and conversation and the choice supplies of food and of 
drink might be the nearer to them. 

Medb of Cruachan, ' daughter of Eocho Fedlech,' more- 
over, was at Ailill's left. Finnabair (' Fairbrow '), ^ daughter 
of Ailill and Medb,* at her side, * besides servants; and 
henchmen.^ Next, Flidais Foltchain (* of the Lovely Hair'), 
wife first of Ailill Finn ('the Fair'). She took part in 
the Cow-spoil of Cualnge after she had slept with Fergus ; 
and she it was that every seventh night brought sustenance 

1—1 Eg. 1782. 2...1 stowe. 3... 3 Translating from Stowe. 

*•••« LU. 156-157. *-6 LU. 160. 

«•••• Eg. 1782. '-.» LU. 160. »•••* LU. 161. »'••• Eg. 1782. 


22 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 404. in milk to the men of Erin on the march, for king and queen 
and prince and poet and pupil. 

Medb remained in the rear of the host that day in 
*LT>.fo. 57a. quest of tidings and augury* and knowledge. ^ She 
called to her charioteer to get ready her nine chariots for 
her/ 2 to make a circuit of the camp* that she might learn 
who was loath and who eager to take part in the hosting. 
'With nine chariots" she was wont to travel, that the 
dust of the great host might not soil her.^ Medb suffered 
not her chariot to be let down nor her horses unyoked 
until she had made a circuit of the camp. 

Then, *when she had reviewed the host,* were Medb's 
horses unyoked and her chariots let down, and she 
took her place beside Ailill macMata. And Ailill asked 
tidings of Medb : who was eager and who was loath 
for the warfare. " Futile for all is the emprise but 
for one troop only, ^ namely the division of the Galian 
(* of Leinster ')/' ^ quoth Medb. « " Why blamest thou 
these men ?" queried Ailill. "It is not that we blame 
them," Medb made answer.* " What good service then 
have these done that they are praised above all ? " asked 
Ailill. ''There is reason to praise them," said Medb. 
' " Splendid are the warriors. "^ When the others begin making 
their pens and pitching their camp, these have finished 
building their bothies and huts. When the rest are build- 
ing their bothies and huts, these have finished preparing 
their food and drink. When the rest are preparing their 
food and drink, these have finished eating and feasting, 
^ and their harps are playing for them.^ When all the 
others have finished eating and feasting, these are by that 

»-i LU. 153. 2...S Eg. 1782. '•••' Gloss in LU. fo. 56b, 3. 

• Following the emendation suggested by L. Chr. Stern, Zeit- 
schrift filr Celtische Philologie, Band II, 5. 417, LU. has ' nine 

*•••* Eg. 1782. 6-» LU. 164 and Stowe. ••••• LU. 165. 

'•••' LU. 165. »•..« LU. 168. 

The March of the Host 23 

time asleep. And even as their servants and thralls are 
distinguished above the servants and thralls of the men of 
Erin, so shall their heroes and champions be distinguished 
beyond the heroes and champions of the men of Erin this 
time on this hosting. ^ It is folly then for these to go, 
since it is those others will enjoy the victory of the host.^ " 
"So much the better, I trow,'' replied Ailill ; "for it is 
with us they go and it is for us they fight." " They 
shall not go with us nor shall they fight for us." ^ cried 
Medb.2 " Let them stay at home then," said Ailill. " Stay 
they shall not," answered Medb. ^ " They will fall on us 
in the rear and will seize our land against us." ^ '* What 
shall they do then," Finnabair** asked, " if they go not out 
nor yet remain at home ? " " Death and destruction and 
slaughter is what I desire for them," answered Medb. " For 
shame then on thy speech," spake AiHU ; " * 'tis a woman's 
advice,* for that they pitch their tents and make their pens 
so promptly and unwearily." " By the truth of my con- 
science," cried Fergus, ^ " not thus shall it happen, for 
they are allies of us men of Ulster.^ No one shall do them 
to death but he that does death to myself ® along with 
them I " « 

" Not to me oughtest thou thus to speak, O Fergus," 
then cried Medb, "for I have hosts enough to slay and 
slaughter thee \vith the division of Leinstermen roimd 
thee. For there are the seven Mane, ' that is, my seven 
sons ' with their seven divisions, and the sons of Maga 
with their « seven* divisions, and AiUll with his division, 
and I myself with my own body-guard besides. We are 
strong enough here to kill and slaughter thee with thy 
cantred of the Leinstermen round thee ! " 

" It befits thee not thus to speak to me," said Fergus, 

»-i LU. 169. 2-* Stowe. »•••» LU. 171-172. 

• 'Ailill/ in Eg. 1782. *-* Eg. 1782. »—• LU. 175-176. 

«•••« Stowe. '•..» LU. 179. "•••» Add. 

24 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 439. " for I have with me here ^in aUiance with us Ulstermen/ 

the seven Under-kings of Munster, with their seven cantreds. 
* Here we have what is best of the youths of Ulster, even 
the division of the Black Banishment. 2 Here we have what 
is best of the noble youths of Ulster, even the division 
of the Gahan ('of Leinster'). Furthermore, I myself am 
bond and surety and guarantee for them, since ever they 
left their own native land. ^I will give thee battle in 
the midst of the camp,^ and to me will they hold stead- 
fast on the day of battle. More than all that," added 
Fergus, " these men shall be no subject of dispute. By 
that I mean I will never forsake them. *For the rest, 
we will care for these warriors, to the end that they get 
not the upper hand of the host. 

**The number of our force is seventeen cantreds, besides 
our rabble and our women-folk — for with each king was his 
queen in Medb's company — and our striplings ; the eight- 
eenth division is namely the cantred of the Galian.* This 
division of Leinstermen I will distribute among ^all the 
host of ^ the men of Erin in such wise that no five men of 
them shall be in any one place." " That pleaseth me 
well," said Medb : " let them be as they may, if only they 
be not in the battle-order of the ranks where they now are 
in such great force." 

Forthwith Fergus distributed the cantred « of the Galian • 
among the men of Erin in such wise that there were not 
five men of them in any one place. 
L fo. 57b. * Thereupon, the troops set out on their way and march. 
It was no easy thing ' for their kings and their leaders "^ to 
attend to that mighty host. They took part in the expe- 

^•••1 LU. 184. 

^•••« Reading with Stowe ; LL. appears to be corrupt. This 
was the name given to Fergus, Cormac and the other exiles from 

«-3 Eg. 1782. 4...4 LU. 187-192. »•••» Eg. 1782. 

«•••« Stowe and Add. '— ' Stowe. 

The March of the Host 

m according to the several tribes and according to the 
several stems and the several districts wherewith they had 
come, to the end that they might see one other and know 
one other, that each man might be with his comrades and 
with his friends and with his kinsfolk on the march. They 
declared that in such wise they should go. They also 
took counsel in what manner they should proceed on their 
hosting. Thus they declared they should proceed : Each 
host with its king, each troop with its lord, and each 
band with its captain ; each king and each prince of 
the men of Erin ^ by a separate route ^ on his halting 
height apart. They took counsel who was most proper 
to seek tidings in advance of the host between the two pro- 
vinces. And they said it was Fergus, inasmuch as the expe- 
dition was an obligatory one with him, for it was he that 
had been seven years in the kingship of Ulster. And 
^ after Conchobar had usurped the kingship and ^ after 
the murder of the sons of Usnech who were under his pro- 
tection and surety, Fergus left the Ultonians, and for 
seventeen years he was away from Ulster in exile and in 
enmity. For that reason it was fitting that he above all 
should go after tidings. 

So ®the lead of the way was entrusted to Fergus.* 
Fergus before all fared forth to seek tidings, and a 
feeling of * love and * affection for his kindred of the men 
of Ulster came over him, and he led the troops astray in a 
great circuit to the north and the south. And he despatched 
messengers with warnings to the Ulstermen, ^who were 
at that time in their ' Pains ' except Cuchulain and his 
father Sualtaim.^ And he began to detain and delay the 
host « until such time as the men of Ulster should have 
gathered together an army.« ' Because of affection he did so J 

»—i Stowe and Add. 2.. .2 stowe and Add. ^-^ Eg. 1782. 

^•••* Stowe. 6.. .6 LU. and YBL. 217. 

••••• LU. and YBL. 227. '•••^ Eg. 1782. 


Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 472. Medb perceived this and she upbraided him for it, and 
chanted the lay : — 

Medb : " Fergus, speak, what shall we say ? 
What may mean this devious way ? 
For we wander north and south ; 
Over other lands we stray ! " 

Fergus : " Medb, why art thou so perturbed ? 
There's no treacherous purpose here. 
Ulster's land it is, O queen. 
Over which I've led thy host ! " 

Medb : " Ailill, splendid with his hosts, 

^ Fears thee lest thou should'st betray.* 
Thou hast not bent all thy mind 
To direct us on our way ! " 

Fergus : " Not to bring the host to harm 
Make these changing circuits I. 
Haply could I now avoid 
Sualtach's son, the Blacksmith's Hound ! " • 

Medb : " 111 of thee to wrong our host, 
Fergus, son of Ross the Red ; 
Much good hast thou found with us, 
Fergus, in thy banishment ! " 

^' 2 If thou showest our foemen love, 
No more shalt thou lead our troops; 
Haply someone else we'll find 
To direct us on our way ! 2 " 

** I will be in the van of the troops no longer," cried 
Fergus ; " but do thou find another to go before them." 
For all that, Fergus kept his place in the van of the troops. 

The four mighty provinces of Erin passed that night on 
Cul Silinne. The sharp, keen-edged anxiety for Cuchulain 
came upon Fergus and he warned the men of Erin to be on 
their guard, because there would come upon them the 
rapacious lion, and the doom of foes, the vanquisher of 
multitudes, and the chief of retainers, the mangier of great 
hosts, the hand that dispenseth ^ treasures, ^ and the flaming 

»-i Reading with LU. and YBL. 252. 

* That is, Cuchulain. 

2-2 Eg. 1782. 3-3 Stowe and Add. 


The March of the Host 27 

torch, even Cuchulain son of Sualtaim." And thus he 
foreshowed him and chanted a lay, and Medb responded : — 

Fergus : " Well for ye to heed and watch. 
With array of arms and men. 
He will come, the one we fear, 
Murthemne's great, deedful youth ! " 

Medb : " How so dear, this battle-rede. 

Comes from thee,* Roig's son most bold. 
Men and arms have I enough 
To attend Cuchulain here ! " 

Fergus : " Thou shalt need them, Medb of Ai, 
Men and arms for battle hard. 
With the grey steed's * horseman brave, 
All the night and all the day ! " 

Medb : "I have kept here in reserve 

Heroes fit for fight and spoil ; 
Thirty hundred hostage-chiefs, 
Leinster's bravest champions they. 

Fighting men from Cruachan fair. 
Braves from clear-streamed Luachair, 
Four full realms of goodly Gaels 
Will defend me from this man ! " 

Fergus : " Rich in troops from Mourne and Bann, 
Blood he'll draw o'er shafts of spears ; 
He will cast to mire and sand 
These three thousand Leinstermen. 

With the swallow's swiftest speed, 
With the rush of biting wind, 
So bounds on my dear brave Hound, 
Breathing slaughter on his foes!" 

Medb : " Fergus, should he come 'tween us, 
To Cuchulain bear this word : 
He were prudent to stay still ; 
Cruachan holds a check in store." 

Fergus : " Valiant will the slaughter be 

Badb's wild daughter * gloats upon. 
For the Blacksmith's Hound will spill 
Showers of blood on hosts of men ! " 

* LL. fo. 58a 

- MS. : Sualtach. 

* Liath Mache (' the Roan of Macha '), the name of one of Cuchu- 
lain's two horses. 

* That is, the goddess or fury of battle. 

28 Tain B6 Cualnge 

After this lay the men of the four grand provinces of 
Erin marched ^ on the morrow ^ over Moin Coltna (' the 
Marsh of Coltain') eastwards that day ; and there met 
them eight score deer ^ in a single herd. - The troops spread 
out and surrounded and killed them so that none of them 

But there is one event to add : Although the division 
of the Galian had been dispersed ^ among the men 
of Erin, 3 * wherever there was a man of the Galian, 
it was he that got them, except * five deer only which 
was the men of Erin's share thereof, so that one division 
took all the eight score deer. 

^Then they proceed to MagTrega and they unyoke there 
and prepare their food. It is said that it is there that 
Dubthach recited this stave : — 

" Grant ye have not heard till now, 
Giving ear to Dubthach's fray : 
Dire-black war upon ye waits, 
'Gainst the Whitehorned of Queen Medb ! • 

" There will come the chief of hosts,* 
War for Murthemne to wage. 
Ravens shall drink garden's milk," 
This the fruit of swineherds' strife(?) * 

" Turfy Cron will hold them back. 
Keep them back from Murthemne,* 
• Till the warriors* work is done 
On Ochaine's northern mount ! 

" * Quick,' to Cormac, Ailill cries ; 
' Go and seek ye out your son, 
Loose no cattle from the fields, 
Lest the din of the host reach them ! ' 

'i-i LU. 195. 2...2 stowe and Add. 

*•••« Stowe and Add. *•••* LU. 196. 

" Literally, ' of Ailill's spouse.' * That is, Cuchulain. 

•^ A kenning for ' blood.' 

* Referring to the two bulls, the Brown and the Whitehorned, 
which were the re-incarnations through seven intermediate stages 
of two divine swineherds of the gods of the under-world. The story 
is told in Irische Texte, iii, i, pp. 230-275. 

»•••• LU. 198-205. 

The March of the Host 29 

" Battle they'll have here eftsoon, 
Medb and one third of the host. 
Corpses will be scattered wide 
If the Wildman • come to you ! " 

Then Nemain, ^the Badb to wit/ attacked them, and 
that was not the quietest of nights they had, with the 
noise of the churl, namely Dubthach, in their* sleep. 
Such fears he scattered amongst the host straightway, 
and he hurled a great stone at the throng till Medb came 
to check him. They continued their march then till they 
slept a night in Granard Tethba in the north, ^ 2 ^fter the 
host had made a circuitous way across sloughs and streams. ^ 

It was on that same day, ^ after the coming of the warn- 
ing from Fergus ^ *to the Ulstermen,* that Cuchulain 
son of Sualtaim, ^ and Sualtaim ^ Sidech (' of the Fairy 
Mound'), his father, ^ when they had received the warning 
from Fergus, ® came so near '^ on their watch for the host ^ 
that their horses grazed in pasture round the pillar- 
stone on Ard Cuillenn ('the Height of Cuillenn'). 
Sualtaim's horses cropped the grass north of the pillar- 
stone close to the ground ; Cuchulain's cropped the grass 
south of the pillar-stone even to the ground and the bare 
stones. "Well, O master Sualtaim,'* said Cuchulain; " the 
thought of the host is fixed sharp upon me ^ to-night,^ so 
do thou depart for us with warnings to the men of Ulster, 
that they remain not in the smooth plains but that they 
betake themselves to the woods and wastes and steep glens 
of the province, if so they may keep out of the way of the 
men of Erin." " And thou, lad, what wilt thou do ? " 
" I must go southwards to Temair to keep tryst with the 

• Literally, ' the Contorted one ' ; that is, Cuchulain. 

i-i Gloss in YBL. 211 ; *'his'Eg. 1782. 

••••• YBL. and LU. 206-215. With this passage YBL. begins, fo. lyai 

«•••« LU. 215. 3-..' LU. 218. «-*Eg. 1782. 

••••» Sualtach, in LL. «•••« Eg. 1782. 

'•••' Eg. 1782. »•••• LU. and YBL. 220. 

30 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 556. maid " of Fedlimid Nocruthach (' of the Nine Forms *) 
^ Conchobar's daughter/ according to my own agree- 
ment, till morning/' '* Alas, that one should go ^ on 
such a journey," ^ said Sualtaim, ** and leave the Ulster- 
men under the feet of their foes and their enemies for the 
sake of a tryst with a woman! " ** For all that, I needs 
must go. For, an I go not, the troth of men will be held 
for false and the promises of women held for true.'* 

Sualtaim departed with warnings to the men of Ulster. 
Cuchulain strode into the wood, and there, with a single 
blow, he lopped the prime sapling of an oak, root and top, 
and with only one foot and one hand and one eye he exerted 
himself ; and he made a twig-ring thereof and set an 
ogam ^ script on the plug of the ring, and set the ring round 
the narrow part of the pillar-stone on Ard (' the Height ') 
of Cuillenn. He forced the ring till it reached the thick 
of the pillar-stone. Thereafter Cuchulain went his way 
to his tryst with the woman. 

Touching the men of Erin, the account follows here : 
They came up to the pillar-stone at Ard Cuillenn, 
3 which is called Crossa Coil to-day,^ and they began 
looking out upon the province that was unknown to 
them, the province of Ulster. And two of Medb's people 
went always before them in the van of the host, at every 
^LLfo. 5 8.b. camp and on every march, at every ford and every river * 
and every gap. They were wont to do so * that they might 
save the brooches and cushions and cloaks of the host, so 
that the dust of the multitude might not soil them* and 
that no stain might come on the princes' raiment in the 
crowd or the crush of the hosts or the throng ; — these 
were the two sons of Nera, who was the son of Nuathar, 

.• " Who was secretly as a concubine with Cuchulain " ; gloss in 
LU. and YBL. 222 and Eg. 1782. ^'"^ Eg. 1782. 

2---2 Stowe and Add. * The old kind of writing of the Irish. 

»-3 Eg. 1782. *•••* LU. and YBL. 245-246. 

The March of the Host 31 

son of Tacan, two sons of the house-stewards of Cruachan, 
Err and Innell, to wit. Fraech and Fochnam were the 
names of their charioteers. 

The nobles of Erin arrived at the pillar-stone and they 
there beheld the signs of the browsing of the horses, cropping 
around the pillar, and they looked close at the rude hoop 
which the royal hero had left behind about the pillar-stone. 
^ Then sat they down to wait till the army should come, the 
while their musicians played to them.^ And Ailill took 
the withy in his hand and placed it in Fergus' hand, and 
Fergus read the ogam script graven on the plug of the 
withy, and made known to the men of Erin what was the 
meaning of the ogam writing that was on it. ^ When 
Medb came, she asked, " Why wait ye here ? " " Because 
of yonder withy we wait,*' Fergus made answer ; " there 
is an ogam writing on its binding and this is what it 
saith : ' Let no one go past here till a man be found to 
throw a withy like unto this, using only one hand and 
made of a single branch, and I except my master Fergus.' 
Truly," Fergus added, " it was Cuchulain threw it, and 
it was his steeds that grazed this plain." And he placed the 
hoop in the hands of the druids, ^ and it is thus he began to 
recite and he pronounced a lay : — 

" What bespeaks this withe to us, 
What purports its secret rede ? 
And what number cast it here. 
Was it one man or a host ? 

"If ye go past here this night, 
And bide not ' one night ^ in camp, 
On ye'll come the tear-flesh Hound ; 
Yours the blame, if ye it scorn ! 

" * Evil on the host he'll bring,* 
If ye go your way past this. 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 250. 

«•••» LU. and YBL. 252-258. 

»•••' Reading with Stowe, Add. and H. i. 13. 

4--* Reading with LU. and YBL. 261. 

32 Tain Bo Cualnge 

Find, ye druids, find out here. 

For what cause this withe was made ! '^ 

1 A druid speaks ^ : " Cut by hero, cast by chief. 
As a perfect trap for foes. 
Stayer of lords — with hosts of men — 
One man cast it with one hand ! 

" With fierce rage the battle 'gins 
Of the Smith's Hound of Red Branch." 
Bound to meet this madman's rage ; 
This the name that's on the withe ! 

2 "Would the king's host have its will — 
Else they break the law of war — 
Let some one man of ye cast, 
As one man this withe did cast ! * 

" Woes to bring with hundred fights 
On four realms of Erin's land ; 
Naught I know 'less it be this 
For what cause the withe was made ! " 

After that lay : "I pledge you my word," said Fergus, 
"if so ye set at naught yon withy and the royal hero that 
made it, ^ and if ye go beyond ^ without passing a night's 
camp and quarterage here, or until a man of you make a 
withy of like kind, using but one foot and one eye and one 
hand, even as he made it, * certain it is, whether ye be * 
under the ground or in a tight-shut house, ^ the man that 
wrote the ogam hereon ^ will bring slaughter and blood- 
shed upon ye before the hour of rising on the morrow, if 
ye make light of him 1 '* " That, surely, would not be pleas- 
ing to us," quoth Medb, " that any one should * straight- 
way* spill our blood or besmirch us red, now that we 
are come to this unknown province, even to the province of 
Ulster. More pleasing would it be to us, to spill another's 
blood and redden him." " Far be it from us to set this 

*•••* LU., marginal note. 

• The name of the festal hall of the kings of Ulster. 

2-» Eg. 1782. 

»•••' LU. 270. 4---* Reading with Stowe. 

*•••' LU. 271. 6... 6 LU. and YBL. 273. 

The March of the Host 33 

withy at naught," said Ailill, " nor shall we make little 
of the royal hero that wrought it, rather will we resort to 
the shelter of this great wood, ^that is, Fidduin, ('the 
Wood of the Dun '^ southwards till morning. There will 
we pitch our camp and quarters." 

Thereupon the hosts advanced, and as they went they 
felled the wood with their swords before their chariots, 
so that Slechta (* the Hewn Road ') is still the by-name of 
that place where is Partraige Beca (* the Lesser Partry ') 
south-west of Cenannas na Rig (' Kells of the Kings') near 
Cul Sibrille. 

2 According to other books, it is told as follows : After 
they had come to ^ Fidduin ^ they saw a chariot and therein 
a beautiful maiden. It is there that the conversation 
between Medb and Fedelm the seeress took place that 
we spoke of before, and it is after the answer she made to 
Medb that the wood was cut down : " Look for me," said 
Medb, " how my journey will be." " It is hard for me," 
the maiden made answer, " for no glance of eye can I cast 
upon them in the wood." *' Then it is plough-land this 
shall be," quoth Medb ; "we will cut down the wood." 
Now, this was done, so that this is the name of the place, 
Slechta, to wit.^ 

*They slept in Cul Sibrille, which is Cenannas.* A 
heavy snow fell on them that night, and so great it 
was that it reached to the shoulders ** of the men and to 
the flanks of the horses and to the poles ^ of the chariots, 
so that all the provinces of Erin were one level plane from 
the snow. But no huts nor bothies nor tents did they set 
up that night, nor did they * prepare food nor drink, nor *LL. fo. 59. 
made they a meal nor repast. None of the men of Erin 

1...1 A gloss in YBL. 274; found also in Eg. 1782. 

2-2 YBL. 276-283. 3-3 'Fedaduin,' MS. -^-^ Eg. 1782. 

« ' Girdles,' LU. and YBL. 284; 'shields,' Eg. 1782. 

» ' Wheels,' LU. and YBL. 285 and Eg. 1782. 

34 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 630. wot whether friend or foe was next him until the bright 
hour of sunrise on the morrow. 

Certain it is that the men of Erin experienced not a 
night of encampment or of station that held more discomfort 
or hardship for them than that night ^ with the snow ^ at 
Cul Sibrille. The four grand provinces of Erin moved out 
early on the morrow ^ with the rising of the bright-shining 
sun glistening on the snow ^ and marched on from that 
part into another. 

Now, as regards Cuchulain : It was far from being early 
when he arose ^ from his tryst.^ And then he ate a meal 
and took a repast, and * he remained until he had * washed 
himself and bathed on that day. 

He called to his charioteer to lead out the horses and 
yoke the chariot. The charioteer led out the horses and 
yoked the chariot, and Cuchulain mounted his chariot. 
And they came on the track of the army. They found 
the trail of the men of Erin leading past them from that 
part into another. " Alas, O master Laeg," cried Cuchu- 
lain, " by no good luck went we to our tryst with the woman 
last night. ^ Would that we had not gone thither nor 
betrayed the Ultonians.^ This is the least that might be 
looked for from him that keeps guard on the marches, a 
€ry, or a shout, or an alarm, or to call, * Who goes the 
road ? ' This it fell not unto us to say. The men of Erin 
have gone past us, * without warning, without complaint,® 
into the land of Ulster." " I foretold thee that, O Cuchu- 
lain," said Laeg. " Even though thou wentest to thy 
woman-tryst 'last night,' such a disgrace would come 
upon thee." ** Good now, O Laeg, go thou for us on the 
trail of the host and make an estimate of them, and dis- 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 287. 2.. .2 Reading with Stowe. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 288. *•••* LU. and YBL. 289. 
5-5 LU. and YBL. 290. 

«-8 Stowe. '•••' Stowe. 

The March of the Host 35 

cover for us in what number the men of Erin went by us." 
Laeg came on the track of the host, and he went to the 
front of the trail and he came on its sides and he went to 
the back of it. " Thou art confused in thy counting, O 
Laeg, my master," quoth Cuchulain. " Confused I must 
be," Laeg repHed. ^ " It is not confusedly that I should 
see, if I should go," said Cuchulain. ^ " Come into the 
chariot then, and I will make a reckoning of them." The 
charioteer mounted the chariot and Cuchulain went on 
the trail of the hosts and ^ after a long while ^ he made a 
reckoning of them. ^ " Even thou, it is not easy for thee.^ 
Thou art perplexed in thy counting, my little Cuchulain," 
quoth Laeg. " Not perplexed," answered Cuchulain ; 

* " it is easier for me than for thee.* ^ For I have three 
magical virtues : Gift of sight, gift of understanding, and 
gift of reckoning.^ For I know the number wherewith 
the hosts went past us, namely, eighteen cantreds. Nay 
more : the eighteenth cantred has been distributed among 

* the entire host of ^ the men of Erin, ' so that their num- 
ber is not clear, namely, that of the cantred of Lein- 
stermen." ' ^ This here is the third cunningest * and 
most difficult^ reckoning that ever was made in Erin. 
These were : The reckoning by Cuchulain of the men of 
Erin on the Tain, the reckoning by Lug Lamfota (* Long- 
hand ') of the host of the Fomorians ^® in the Battle of Moy- 
tura, ^^ and the reckoning by Incel of the host in the Hostel 
of Da Derga.^ 

Now, many and divers were the magic virtues that were 
in Cuchulain ^ that were in no one else in his day. ^^ Excel- 
lence of form, excellence of shape, excellence of build, ex- 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 294-295. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 297. 
3-3 LU. and YBL. 297. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 297-298. 

5-5 LU. and YBL. 298-299. «•••« LU. and YBL. 302. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 302. ^--^ LU. fo. 58a, in the margin. 

10. ..10 LU. fo. 58a, in the margin. »-"8 Stowe. 

^^•••^* Stowe, and LU. fo. 58a, 24, marginal note. 

38 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 702. a council and they felt certain it was the sign of a 
multitude and of the approach of a mighty host, and that 
it was the Ulstermen that had come ^ and that it was a 
battle that had taken place before them on the ford.^ And 
this was the counsel they : took to despatch Cormac Con- 
longas, Conchobar's son, from them to learn what was at 
the ford ; because, even though the Ulstermen might be 
there, they would not kill the son of their own king. There- 
upon Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, set forth and 
this was the complement with which he went, ten hundred 
in addition to twenty hundred armed men, to ascertain 
what was at the ford. And when he was come, he saw 
naught save the fork in the middle of the ford, with four 
heads upon it dripping their blood down along the stem of 
the fork into the stream of the river, ^ and a writing in 
ogam on the side,^ and the signs of the two horses and the 
track of a single chariot-driver and the marks of a single 
warrior leading out of the ford going therefrom to the east- 
ward. ^ By that time,^ the nobles of Erin had drawn nigh 
to the ford and they all began to look closely at the fork. 
They marvelled and wondered who had set up the trophy. 
* " Are yonder heads those of our people ? " Medb asked. 
" They are our people's, and our chosen ones'," answered 
Ailill. One of their men deciphered the ogam-writing 
that was on the side of the fork, to wit : * A single man cast 
this fork with but a single hand ; and go ye not past it 
till one man of you throw it with one hand, excepting Fer- 
gus.' * " What name have ye men of Ulster for this ford 
till now, Fergus ? " asked Ailill. " Ath Grenca," " an- 
swered Fergus ; " and Ath Gabla (' Ford of the Fork ') shall 
now be its name forever from this fork," said Fergus. 
And he recited the lay : — 

1-1 Stowe. 2.-2 LU. and YBL. 313. 

3-' LU. and YBL. 314. 4-.* LU. and YBL. 314-318. 

* So Stowe ; LL. has ' Grena.' 

The March of the Host 39 

" Grenca's ford shall change its name, 
From the strong and fierce Hound's deed. 
Here we see a four-pronged fork. 
Set to prove all Erin's men! 

" On two points — as sign of war — 
Are Fraech's head and Fochnam's head ; 
On its other points are thrust 
Err's head and Innell's withal! 

" And yon ogam on its side. 
Find, ye druids, in due form, 
Who has set it upright there ? 
What host drove it in the ground ? " 

(A druid answers :) " Yon forked pole — with fearful strength — 
Which thou seest, Fergus, there. 
One man cut, to welcome us, 
With one perfect stroke of sword ! 

" Pointed it and shouldered it — 
Though this was no light exploit — 
After that he flung it down. 
To uproot for one of you! 

" Grenca was its name till now — 
All will keep its memory — 
Fork-ford « be its name for aye, 
From the fork that's in the ford!" 

After the lay, spake Ailill : "I marvel and wonder, O 
Fergus, who could have sharpened the fork and slain with 
such speed the four that had gone out before us." " Fitter 
it were to marvel and wonder at him who with a single 
stroke lopped the fork which thou seest, root and top, 
pointed and charred it and flung it the length of a throw 
from the hinder part of his chariot, from the tip of a single 
hand, so that it sank over two-thirds into the ground and 
that naught save one-third is above ; nor was a hole first 
dug with his sword, but through a grey stone's flag it was 
thrust, and thus it is geis for the men of Erin to proceed 
to the bed of this ford till one of ye pull out the fork with 
the tip of one hand, even as he erewhile drove it down." 

" Thou art of our hosts, O Fergus," said Medb ; 

« That is, Ath Gahla. 

40 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 753. ^ avert this necessity from us/ and do thou draw the 
fork for us from the bed of the ford." " Let a 
chariot be brought me/' cried Fergus, 2 " till I draw it out, 
that it may be seen that its butt is of one hewing." ^ ^^d 
a chariot was brought to Fergus, and Fergus laid hold 
3 with a truly mighty grip ^ on the fork, and he made splin- 

• ters and * scraps of the chariot. " Let another chariot 
be brought me," cried Fergus. * Another * chariot was 
brought to Fergus, and Fergus made a tug at the fork and 
again made fragments and splinters of the chariot, ^ both 
its box and its yoke and its wheels.^ " Again let a chariot 
be brought me," cried Fergus. And Fergus exerted his 
strength on the fork, and made pieces and bits of the char- 
iot. There where the seventeen" chariots of the Con- 
nachtmen's chariots were, Fergus made pieces and bits of 
them all, and yet he failed to draw the fork from the bed of 
the ford. '* Come now, let it be, O Fergus," cried Medb ; 
" break our people's chariots no more. For hadst thou 
not been now engaged on this hosting, ^ by this time ^ should 
we have come to Ulster, driving divers spoils and cattle- 
herds with us. We wot wherefore thou workest all this, 
to delay and detain the host till the Ulstermen rise from 
their ' Pains ' and offer us battle, the battle of the Tain." 
" Bring me a swift chariot," cried Fergus. And his 
own chariot was brought to Fergus, and Fergus gave 
a tug at the fork, and nor wheel nor floor nor one of the 
chariot-poles creaked nor cracked. Even though it was 
with his strength and prowess that the one had driven it 
down, with his might and doughtiness the other drew it 
out, — the battle-champion, the gap-breaker of hundreds, 
the crushing sledge, the stone-of-battle for enemies, the 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 322. 2...2 lu_ and YBL. 324. 

=^•••3 Stowe. 4"-4 Stowe. ^-^ Stowe. 

« " Fourteen," LU. and YBL. 325 and Eg. 1782 
••••« Stowe. 

The March of the Host 41 

777« head of retainers, the foe of hosts, the hacking of masses, 
the flaming torch and the leader of mighty combat. He 
drew it up with the tip of one hand till it reached the slope 
of his shoulder, and he placed the fork in Ailill's hand. 
Ailill scanned it ; he regarded it near. " The fork, me- 
seems, is all the more perfect," quoth Ailill ; " f or a single 
stroke I see on it from butt to top." " Aye, all the more 
perfect," Fergus replied. And Fergus began to sing praise 
1 of Cuchulain, ^ and he made a lay thereon : — 

" Here behold the famous fork, 
By which cruel Cuchulain stood. 
Here he left, for hurt to all, 
Four heads of his border-foes ! 

" Surely he'd not flee therefrom, 
'Fore aught man, how brave or bold. 
Though the scatheless « Hound this left, 
On its hard rind there is gore ! 

" To its hurt the host goes east. 
Seeking Cualnge's wild Brown bull. 
^ Warriors' cleaving there shall be,'^ 
'Neath Cuchulain 's baneful sword ! 

" No gain will their ^ stout bull be, 
For which sharp-armed war will rage ; 
At the fall of each head's skull 
Erin's every tribe shall weep! 

" I have nothing to relate 
As regards Dechtire's son." 
Men and women hear the tale 
Of this fork, how it came here!" 

After this lay : " Let us pitch our booths and tents," 
said Ailill, " and let us make ready food and drink, and 
let us sing songs and strike up harps, and let us eat and 

1-1 Stowe. 

» Literally, ' painless,' I'ef erring to Cuchulam's exemption 
from the cess or ' debility ' of the Uistermen. 
2-" 2 Reading with Stowe and H. i. 13. 
» Translating from Stowe ; LL. has ' his ' or ' its.' 
« That is, Cuchulain. 

42 Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 807. regale ourselves, for, of a truth, never before nor since knew 
the men of Erin a night of encampment or of entrenchment 
that held sorer discomfort or distress for them than yester- 
night. ^ Let us give heed to the manner of folk to whom 
we go and let us hear somewhat of their deeds and famous 
tales." 1 

They raised their booths and pitched their tents. They got 
♦LL. fo. 6ib. ready * their food and drink, and songs were sung and 
harping intoned by them, and feasting and eating indulged 
in, 2 and they were told of the feats of Cuchulain.^ 

And Ailill inquired of Fergus : "I marvel and wonder who 
could have come to us to our lands and slain so quickly 
the four that had gone out before us. Is it likely that 
Conchobar son of Fachtna Fatach (* the Mighty '), High 
King of Ulster, has come to us ? " " It is never likely that 
he has," Fergus answered ; '* for a shame it would be to 
speak ill of him in his absence. There is nothing he would 
not stake for the sake of his honour. For if he had come 
hither ^ to the border of the land ^, there would have come 
armies and troops and the pick of the men of Erin that are 
with him. And even though against him in one and the 
same place, and in one mass and one march and one camp, 
and on one and the same hill were the men of Erin and 
Alba, Britons and Saxons, he would give them battle, 
before him they would break and it is not he that would 
be routed." 

" A question, then : Who would be like to have come 

to us ? Is it like that Cuscraid Mend (* the Stammerer ') 

of Macha would have come, Conchobar's son, from Inis 

Cuscraid ? " " Nay then, it is not ; he, the son of 

the High King," Fergus answered. " There is nothing he 

would not hazard for the sake of his honour. For were 

it he that had come hither, there would have come the 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 329-330. 

2.-.2 LU. and YBL. 331. ^...s lU. and YBL. 333. 

The March of the Host 


7. 827. 

sons of kings and the royal leaders ^ of Ulster and Erin ^ 
that are serving as hirelings with him. And though there 
might be against him in one and the same place, in one 
mass and one march and one camp, and on one and the 
same hill the men of Erin and Alba, Britons and Saxons, 
he would give them battle, before him they would break 
and it is not he that would be routed." 

** I ask, then, whether Eogan son of Durthacht, King 
of Fernmag, would have come ? " "In sooth, it is not 
likely. For, had he come hither, the pick of the men of 
Fernmag would have come with him, battle he would give 
them, before him they would break, and it is not he that 
would be routed." 

" I ask, then : Who would be likely to have come to us? 
Is it Ukely that he would have come, Celtchai son of 
Uthechar ? " "No more is it likely that it was he. A 
shame it would be to make light of him in his absence, 
him the battle-stone for the foes of the province, the head 
of all the retainers and the gate-of-battle of Ulster. And 
even should there be against him in one place and one 
mass and one march and one camp, and on one and the 
same hill all the men of Erin from the west to the east, 
from the south to the north, battle he would give them, 
before him they would break and it is not he that would 
be routed." 

" I ask, then : Who would be hke to have come to us ? '* 
2 asked Ailill.^ 3 " j know not," Fergus replied, » " unless 
it be the little lad, my nursHng and Conchobar's. 
Cuchulain ('the Wolf-dog of Culann the Smith') he is 
called. * He is the one who could have done the deed," 
answered Fergus. " He it is who could have lopped the tree 
with one blow from its root, could have killed the four with 
the quickness wherewith they were killed and could have 
come to the border with his charioteer." * 

i-iStowe. 2...2Stovve. ^...astowe. *-*LU.and YBL.337-34a. 

44 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 843. " Of a truth," spake Ailill, " I heard from ye of this 
little boy once on a time in Cruachan. What might 
be the age of this little boy now ? " " It is by no means 
his age that is most formidable in him," answered Fergus. 
" Because, manful were his deeds, those of that lad, at a 
time when he was younger than he ^ now ^ is. ^ In his 
fifth year he went in quest of warlike deeds among the 
lads of Emain Macha. In his sixth" year he went to 
learn skill in arms and feats with Scathach,^ ^ and he went 
to woo Emer ; ^ 4 jj^ jiis seventh * year he took arms ; in 
his seventeenth year he is at this time." * " How so ! " 
exclaimed Medb. " Is there even now amongst the Ulster- 
men one his equal in age that is more redoubtable than he ? " 
" We have not found there ^ a man-at-arms that is harder,^ 
«nor a point that is keener, more terrible nor quicker,^ nor 
a more bloodthirsty wolf, ^ nor a raven more flesh-loving,' 
nor a wilder warrior, nor a match of his age that would 
*LL. fo. 62a. reach to a third or a fourth * the likes of Cuchulain. Thou 
findest not there," Fergus went on, " a hero his peer, ^ nor 
a lion that is fiercer, nor a plank of battle,^ nor a sledge of 
destruction, ^ nor a gate of combat,* nor a doom of hosts, 
nor a contest of valour that would be of more worth than 
Cuchulain. Thou findest not there one that could equal 
his age and his growth, ^^his dress ^^ ^^ and his terror, ^^ 
his size and his splendour, ^^ his fame and his voice, his shape 
and his power, ^^ his form and his speech, his strength and 
his feats and his valour, ^^his smiting, his heat and his 
anger, 13 his dash, his assault and attack, his dealing of 

1-1 Stowe. 2-. 2 LU. and YBL. 342-345. 

« ' Seventh/ YBL. 344. 3-3 LU. and YBL. 345. 

*•••* LU. 346-347, and, similarly, YBL. » " Eight," YBL. 

*-6 LU. and YBL. 349. «-6 LU. 349-350. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 350. 8...8 LU. and YBL. 351-352. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 352. i»-i° LU. and YBL. 354. 

11. ..11 YBL. 354. 

12-12 LU. and YBL. 355-356. 13...13 lu. and YBL. 356-357. 

The March of the Host 45 

^ 857. doom and affliction, his roar, his speed, his fury, his rage, 
and his quick triumph with the feat of nine men on each 
sword's point " above him, Hke unto Cuchulain." 

" We make not much import of him," quoth Medb. 
" It is but a single body he has ; he shuns being wounded ; 
he avoids being taken. They do say his age is but that of 
a girl to be wed. ^ His deeds of manhood have not yet 
come,^ nor will he hold out against tried men, this young, 
beardless elf-man of whom thou spokest." ^ " We say 
not so," 2 replied Fergus, " for manful were the deeds of 
the lad at a time when he was younger than he ^ now ^ is." 

■*» Reading with Stowe, LU. and YBL. 359, which is more intel- 
ligible than * on each hair/ which is the translation of LL. 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 363. ^-^ ' That is not true,' Stowe. 
3-3 Stowe. 



W. 865. " Now this lad was reared in the house of his father and 
mother at Dairgthech ^ (' the Oak House ' (?)), namely, in 
the plain of Murthemne, and the tales of the youths of Emain 
were told to him. ^ For there are ^ always ^ thrice fifty boys 
at play there," said Fergus. ^ " Forasmuch as in this wise 
Conchobar passed his reign ever since he, the king, assumed 
his sovereignty, to wit : As soon as he arose, forthwith in 
settling the cares and affairs of the province ; thereafter, 
the day he divided in three : first, the first third he spent 
a- watching the youths play games of skill and of hurling ; 
the next third of the day, a-playing draughts and chess, 
and the last third a-f easting on meat and * a- quaffing * 
ale, till sleep possessed them all, the while minstrels and 
harpers lulled him to sleep. For all that I am a long time 
in banishment because of him, I give my word," said 
Fergus, " there is not in Erin nor in Alba a warrior the 
like of Conchobar." 

'*And the lad was told the tales of the boys and the boy- 
troop in Emain ; and the child said to his mother, he would 
go to have part in the games on the play-field of Emain. 
" It is too soon for thee, little son," said his mother ; " wait 
till there go with thee a champion of the champions of 

1 Reading with LU. and YBL. 367. 

"•••a LU. and YBL. 368-369. 3.. .3 Eg. 1782. 

*•••* LU. and^YBL. 371. 


The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain 47 

Ulster, or some of the attendants of Conchobar to enjoin 
thy protection and thy safety on the boy-troop." " I 
think it too long for that, my mother," the Httle lad answered, 
" I will not wait for it. But do thou show me what place 
lies Emain 1 Macha. ^ " ^ " Northwards, there ^ ; it is far 
away from thee," said his mother, " the place wherein it 
lies, 3 and the way is hard.^ SHab Fuait Hes between thee 
andEmain." " At all hazards, I will essay it," he answered. 

"The boy fared forth and took his playthings with him. 
* His little lath-shield * he took, and his hurley of bronze and 
his ball of silver ; and he took his little javelin for throw- 
ing ; and his toy-staff he took with its fire-hardened 
butt-end, and he began to shorten the length of his journey 
with them. He would give the ball a stroke * with the *LL. fo. 62b. 
hurl-bat, so that he sent it a long distance from him. 
Then with a second throw he would cast his hurley so 
that it went a distance no shorter than the first throw. He 
would hurl his little darts, and let fly his toy-staff, and 
make a wild chase after them. Then he would catch up 
his hurl-bat and pick up the ball and snatch up the dart, 
and the stock of the toy-staff had not touched the ground 
when he caught its tip which was in the air. 

" He went his way to the mound-seat of Emain, where was 
the boy-troop. Thrice fifty youths were with Folloman, 
Conchobar' s son, at their games on the fair-green of Emain. 

" The little lad went on to the play-field into the midst 
of the boys, and he whipped the ball between his two legs 
away from them, nor did he suffer it to travel higher up 
than the top of his knee, nor did he let it lower down than 
his ankle, and he drove it and held it between his two legs 
and not one of the boys was able to get a prod nor a stroke 
nor a blow nor a shot at it, so that he carried it over the 

1-1 Eg. 1782. 2-2 LU. and YBL. 376-377- 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 377. *-* LU. and YBL. 380. 

48 » Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 904. brink of the goal away from them. ^ Then he goes to the 
youths without binding them to protect him. For no 
one used to approach them on their play-field without 
first securing from them a pledge of protection. He was 
weetless thereof.^ 

" Then they all gazed upon him. They wondered and 
marvelled. " Come, boys ! " cried FoUoman, Conchobar's 
son, 2 " the urchin insults us.^ Throw yourselves all on 
yon fellow, and his death shall come at my hands ; for it 
is geis among you for any youth to come into your game, 
without first entrusting his safety to you. And do you all 
attack him together, for we know that yon wight is some 
one of the heroes of Ulster ; and they shall not make it 
their wont to break into your sports without first entrust- 
ing their safety and protection to you.'* 

" Thereupon they all set upon him together. They cast 
their thrice fifty hurl-bats at the poll of the boy's head. 
He raises his single toy-staff and wards off the thrice fifty 
hurlies, ^ so that they neither hurt him nor harm him,^ 
* and he takes a load of them on his back.* Then they 
throw their thrice fifty balls at the lad. He raises his upper 
arm and his forearm and the palms of his hands ^ against 
them ^ and parries the thrice fifty balls, ® and he catches 
them, each single ball in his bosom.* They throw at him 
the thrice fifty play-spears charred at the end. The boy 
raises his little lath-shield ' against them "^ and fends off 
the thrice fifty play-staffs, ^ and they all remain stuck in 
his lath-shield. 8 * Thereupon contortions took hold of 
him. Thou wouldst have weened it was a hammering 
wherewith each hair was hammered into his head, with such 
an uprising it rose. Thou wouldst have weened it was a 


LU. and YBL. 382-384. 2... 2 lu, and YBL. 384-385. 
3-3 Stowe. 4-* LU. and YBL. 391. ^-^ Stowe. 
«•••« LU. and YBL. 389. '-^ Stowe. 
8"8 LU. and YBL. 387. '•••» LU. and YBL. 391-397. 

The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain 49 

spark of fire that was on every single hair there. He closed 
one of his eyes so that it was no wider than the eye of a 
needle. He opened the other wide so that it was as big 
as the mouth of a mead-cup.*' He stretched his mouth 
from his jaw-bones to his ears ; he opened his mouth wide 
to his jaw so that his gullet was seen. The champion's 
light rose up from his crown. ^ 

"It was then he ran in among them. He scattered fifty 
king's sons of them over the ground underneath him ^ before 
they got to the gate of Emain. ^ Five I of them," Fergus 
continued, " dashed headlong between me and Conchobar, 
where we were playing chess, ^ven on Cennchaem (' Fair- 
head ') 2 the chessboard of Conchobar,^ on the mound-seat 
of Emain. The little boy pursued them to cut them off. 
*Then he sprang over the chessboard after the nine.^ 
Conchobar seized the little lad by the wrists. " Hold, 
little boy. I see 'tis not gently thou dealest with the boy-^ 
band." "Good reason I have," quoth the little lad. 
*" From home, from mother and father I came to play with 
them, and they have not been good to me.* I had not a 
guest's honour at the hands of the boy- troop on my arrival,, 
for all that I came from far-away lands." " How is that ? 
Who art thou, ^ and what is thy name ? " ^ asked Concho- 
bar. " Little Setanta am I, son of Sualtaim. Son am I 
to Dechtire, thine own sister ; and not through thee did 
I expect to be thus aggrieved." " How so, little one ? " 
said Conchobar. " Knewest thou not that it is forbidden 
among the boy-troop, that it is geis for them for any boy 
to approach them in their land without first claiming 
his protection from them ? " "I knew it not," said the lad. 

• Or, ' a wooden beaker,' YBL. 395. 
»"i LU. and YBL. 398. 

* 'Nine,* LU. and YBL. 399 and Eg. 1782. 
2-2 Stowe. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 400. *•••* LU. and YBL. 403-404. 

'^-^ LU. and YBL. 405. »-» LU. and YBL. 391-397- 

50 Tdin Bo Cualnge 

W. 932. *' Had I known it, I would have been on my guard against 

them." " Good, now, ye boys," Conchobar cried ; '* take ye 

upon you the protection of the httle lad." "We grant it, 

indeed," they made answer. 

♦LL. fo. 63a. " The little lad went * ^ into the game again ^ under the 

protection of the boy-troop. Thereupon they loosed 

hands from him, and once more he rushed amongst them 

2 throughout the house. ^ He laid low fifty of their 

princes on the ground under him. Their fathers thought 

it was death he had given them. That was it not, but 

stunned they were with front-blows and mid-blows and 

long-blows. " Hold ! " cried Conchobar. ** Why art 

thou yet at them ? " "I swear by my gods whom I 

worship " (said the boy) " they shall all come under my 

protection and shielding, as I have put myself under their 

protection and shielding. Otherwise I shall not lighten 

my hands off them until I have brought them all to earth." 

" Well, httle lad, take thou upon thee the protection of 

the boy- troop." " I grant it, indeed," said the lad. 

Thereupon the boy-troop went under his protection and 


" ^ Then they all went back to the play-field, and the boys 
whom he had overthrown there arose. Their nurses and 
tutors helped them. 

" Now, once upon a time," continued Fergus, " when he 
was a gilla, he slept not in Emain Macha till morn- 
ing." " Tell me," Conchobar said to him, " why sleepest 
thou not * in Emain Macha, Cuchulain ? " * "I sleep 
not, unless it be equally high at my head and my feet." 
Then Conchobar had a pillar-stone set up at his head and 
andther at his feet, and between them a bed apart was made 
for him. 

" Another time a certain man went to wake him, and 

1-1 Stowe. 2. ..2 Lu. and YBL. 410. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 413-481. 4-4 YBL. 418. 

The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain 51 

the lad struck him with his fist in ^ the neck or in ^ the 
forehead, so that it drove in the front of his forehead on to 
his brain and he overthrew the pillar-stone with his fore- 
arm.*' " It is known/' exclaimed Ailill, "that that was 
the fist of a champion and the arm of a hero." " And 
from that time," continued Fergus, " no one durst wake 
him, so that he used to wake of himself. 

" Then, another time, he played ball on the play-field 
east of Emain, and he was alone on one side against the 
thrice fifty boys. He always worsted in every game in 
the east (?) in this way. Thereafter the lad began to use 
his fists on them, so that fifty boys of them died thereof. 
He took to flight then, till he took refuge under the cushion 
of Conchobar's couch. The Ulstermen sprang up all 
around him. I, too, sprang up, and Conchobar, thereat. 
The lad himself rose up under the couch, so that he hove 
up the couch and the thirty warriors that were on it withal, 
so that he bore it into the middle of the house. Straight- 
way the Ulstermen sat around him in the house. We 
settled it then," continued Fergus, " and reconciled the 
boy-troop to him afterwards. 

*' The broil of war arose between Ulster and Eogan son 
of Durthacht. The Ulstermen go forth to the war. The 
lad Setanta is left behind asleep. The men of Ulster are 
beaten. Conchobar and Cuscraid Menn (' the Stammerer ') 
of Macha are left on the field and many besides them. 
Their groans awaken the lad. Thereat he stretches him- 
self, so that the two stones are snapped that are near him. 
This took place in the presence of Bricriu yonder," Fergus 
added. " Then he gets up. I meet him at the door of the 
liss, I being severely wounded. " Hey, God keep thy 
Hfe,° O Fergus my master," says he ; " where is Concho- 
bar ? " "I know not," I answer. Thereupon he goes 
out. The night is dark. He makes for the battlefield, 
*•••* Eg. 1782. « A Christian salutation. 

52 Tain Bo Cualnge 

until he sees before him a man and half his head on him 
and half of another man on his back. " Help me, Cuchu- 
lain," he cries ; "I have been stricken, and I bear on my 
back half of my brother. Carry it for me a while." " I 
will not carry it," says he. Thereupon the man throws 
the load at him. Cuchulain throws it back from him. 
They grapple with one another. Cuchulain is overthrown. 
Then I heard something. It was Badb*^ from the corpses : 
"111 the stuff of a warrior that is there under the feet of a 
phantom." Thereat Cuchulain arises from underneath 
him, and he strikes off his head with his playing-stick and 
proceeds to drive the ball before him over the field of battle. 

" Is my master Conchobar on this battle-field ? " That 
one makes answer. He goes towards him, to where he 
espies him in a ditch and the earth piled around him on 
both sides to hide him. " Wherefore art thou come to the 
battle-field ? " Conchobar asks ; ** is it that thou mightst 
see mortal terror there ? " Then Cuchulain lifts him out 
of the ditch. The six strong men of Ulster that were with 
us could not have lifted him out more bravely. " Get 
thee before us to yonder house," says Conchobar, ^ " to 
make me a fire there." He kindles a great fire for him. 
"Good now," quoth Conchobar,^ "if one would bring me 
a roast pig, I would live." " I will go fetch it," says Cuchu- 
lain. Thereupon he sallies out, when he sees a man at a 
cooking-pit in the heart of the wood. One of his hands 
holds his weapons therein, the other roasts the pork. Ill- 
favoured, indeed, is the man. For the which, Cuchulain 
attacks him and takes his head and his pig with him. Con- 
chobar eats the pig then. " Let us go to our house," says 
Conchobar. They meet Cuscraid son of Conchobar and 
there were heavy wounds on him. Cuchulain carries him 
on his back. The three then proceed to Emain Macha. 

" Another time the Ulstermen were in their ' Pains.' 
« The war-fury. i-i YBL. 461. 

The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain 53 

Now, there was no * Pains ' amongst us," Fergus continued, 
" in women or boys, nor in any one outside the borders of 
Ulster, nor in Cuchulain and his father. ^ It was for this 
reason no one dared shed the blood of the men of Ulster, 
for that the ' Pains ' fell on the one that wounded them. ^ 
There came thrice nine men from the Isles of Faiche. They 
pass over our rear fort, the whiles we are in our ' Pains.* 
The women scream in the fort. The youths are in the play- 
field. They come at the cry. When the boys catch 
sight of the swarthy men, they all take to flight save Cuchu- 
lain alone. He hurls the hand-stones and his playing-staff 
at them. He slays nine of them and they leave fifty wounds 
on him and proceed thence on their journey.^ 
947. ** A youngster did that deed," Fergus continued, " at the 
close of five years after his birth, when he overthrew the 
sons of champions and warriors at the very door of their liss 
and dun. No need is there of wonder or surprise, ^ if 
he should do great deeds, ^ if he should come to the con- 
fines of the land, if he should cut off the four-pronged 
fork, if he should slay one man or two men or three men 
or four men, when there are seventeen full years of him 
now on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge." * " In sooth, then, 
we know that youth," spoke out Conall Cernach (* the 
Victorious '), " and it is all the better we should know him, 
for he is a fosterling of our own."^ 

^•••* LU., edition of Strachan and O'Keefie, page 19, note 23. 
3-3 LU., and YBL. 413-481 ; see page 50. 2.. .2 Eg. 1782. 
*•••* LU. and YBL. 484-485. 



Then it was that Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar 
spake: "Again that Httle lad performed a second deed 
in the following year." " What deed was that ? " asked 

^ " A goodly smith there was in the land of Ulster, Culann 
the Smith, by name.^ He made ready a feast for Con- 
chobar and set out for Emain to invite him. He made 
known to him that only a few should come with him, that 
he should bring none but a true guest along, foraismuch 
as it was not a domain or lands of his own that he had, but 
2 the fruit of his two hands,^ his sledges and anvils, his 
fists and his tongs. Conchobar replied that only a few 
would go to him. 

" Culann went back to the stithy to prepare and make 
ready meat and drink ^in readiness for the king.* Con- 
chobar sat in Emain till it was time to set out *for the 
feast,* till came the close of the day. The king put his 
fine, light travelling apparel about him, ^ and went with 
fifty chariot-chiefs of those that were noblest and most 
illustrious of the heroes,^ and betook him to the boys 
« before starting, « to bid them farewell. '^ It was always 

1-1 Stowe. 2...2 Lu and YBL 489. 3-' Stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 489-491. «•••« Stowe. 


The Slaying of the Smithes Hound by Cuchulain 55 

his custom to visit and revisit them when going and coming, 

to seek his blessing of the boys.' Conchobar came on to 

the fair-green, and he saw a thing that astounded him : 

Thrice fifty boys at one end of the green and a single boy 

at the other, and the single boy won the victory at the goal 

and at hurhng from the thrice fifty boys. When it was 

at hole-play they were — a game of hole that used to be 

played on the fair-green of Emain — and it was their turn 

to drive and his to keep guard, he would catch the thrice 

fifty balls just outside of the hole, and not one went by 

him into the hole. When it was their turn to keep guard 

and his to drive, he would send the thrice fifty balls into 

the hole without fail, ^ and the boys were unable to ward 

them off. ^ When it was at tearing off each other's garments 

they played, he would strip off them their thrice fifty 

suits 2 so that they were quite naked, ^ and they were not 

able all of them to take as much as the brooch from his 

mantle. When it was at wresthng they were, he would 

throw those same thrice fifty boys to the ground under him, 

and they did not succeed all of them around him in lifting 

him up. Conchobar looked with wonder at the little lad. 

"O, ye youths," cried* Conchobar. "Hail to the land *LL. fo.esb. 

whence cometh the lad ye see, if the deeds of his manhood 

shall be such as are those of his boyhood!" " Tis not 

just to speak thus," exclaimed Fergus ; " e'en as the 

little lad grows, so will his deeds of manhood grow with 

him." " The little lad shall be called to us, that he may 

come with us to enjoy the feast to which we go." The 

little lad was summoned to Conchobar. " Good, my lad," 

said Conchobar. " Come thou with us to enjoy the feast 

whereto we go, * for thou art a guest." ^ '* Nay, but I 

will not go," the Httle boy answered. " How so ? " asked Con- 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 492-494. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 497. 

•••> LU. and YBL. 502. »•••» LU. and YBL. 507 

g6 Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 990. chobar. " Forasmuch as the boys have not yet had their 
fill of games and of sport, and I will not leave them till 
they have had enough play." "It is too long for us to 
await thee till then, little boy, and by no means shall we 
wait." " Go then before us," said the little boy, " and I 
will follow after ye." " Thou knowest naught of the way, 
little boy," said Conchobar. " I will follow the trail of 
the company and of the horses and chariots." 

"Thereafter Conchobar came to the house of Culann the 
Smith. The king was waited upon and all were shown 
honour, as befitted their rank and calling and privileges, 
nobility and gentle accomplishment. Straw and fresh rushes 
were spread out under them. They commenced to carouse 
and make merry. Culann inquired of Conchobar : " Hast 
thou, O king, appointed any to come after thee this night 
to this dun ? " " No, I appointed no one," replied Con- 
chobar, for he had forgotten the little lad whom he had 
charged to come after him. " Why so ? " asked Con- 
chobar. " An excellent bloodhound have I, ^ that was 
brought from Spain. ^ ^ There are three " chains upon him, 
and three men at each chain. Because of our goods and 
our cattle he is slipped and the liss is closed. ^ When his 
dog-chain is loosed from him, no one dares approach the 
same cantred with him to make a course or a circuit, and 
he knows no one but myself. The power of hundreds is 
in him for strength." Then spake Conchobar, ^* Let the 
dun be opened for the ban-dog, that he may guard the 
cantred." The dog-chain is taken off the ban-dog, and 
he makes a swift round of the cantred. And he comes to 
the mound whereon he was wont to keep guard of the stead, 
and there he was, his head couched on his paws, and wild, 
untameable, furious, savage, ferocious, ready for fight was 
the dog that was there. 

1-1 LU. 513. 2. ..2 LU. and YBL. 512-513. 

-• 'four/ Eg. 1782. 

The Slaying of the Smith's Hound by Cuchulain 57 

^ 1013. " As for the boys : They were in Emain until the time came 
for them to disperse. Each of them went to the house of his 
father and mother, of his foster-mother and foster-father. 
Then the little lad went on the trail of the party, till he reached 
the house of Culann the Smith. He began to shorten the 
way as he went with his play-things. ^ He threw his ball 
and threw his club after it, so that it hit the ball. The 
one throw was no greater than the other. Then he threw 
his staff after them both, so that it reached the ball and the 
club before ever they fell. ^ ^ Soon the lad came up. ^ 
When he was nigh to the green of the fort wherein were 
Culann and Conchobar, he threw all his play-things before 
him except only the ball. The watch-dog descried the lad 
and bayed at him, so that in all the countryside was heard 
the howl of the watch-hound. And not a division of feast- 
ing was what he was incHned to make of him, but to swallow 
him down at one gulp past the cavity * of his chest and *LL. fo. 64a. 
the width of his throat and the pipe of his breast. ^ And 
it interfered not with the lad's play, although the hound 
made for him. ^ And the lad had not with him any means 
of defence, but he hurled an unerring cast of the ball, 
so that it passed through the gullet of the watch-dog's 
neck and carried the guts within him out through his back 
door, and he laid hold of the hound by the two legs and 
dashed him against a pillar-stone * that was near him, so that 
every limb of him sprang apart,* so that he broke into bits 
all over the ground." Conchobar heard the yelp of the 
ban-dog. ^ Conchobar and his people could not move ; 
they weened they would not find the lad alive before them.^ 
^'Alas, O warriors," cried Conchobar; "in no good luck 

^•••1 LU. and YBL. 515-518. 2.. .2 lu. and YBL. 514. 

»-3 LU. and YBL. 518-519. * ••4 LU. and YBL. 525. 

« According to the LU.-YBL. version, Cuchulain seized the hound 
with one hand by the apple of the throat and with the other by 
the back. 

«•••= LU. and YBL. 519-521. 

58 Tain Bo Cualnge 

1029. have we come to enjoy this feast." ** How so ? " asked 
all. " The little lad who has come to meet me, my sister's 
son, Setanta son of Sualtaim, is undone through the hound. "^ 
As one man, arose all the renowned men of Ulster. Though 
a door of the hostel was thrown wide open, they all rushed in 
the other direction out over the pahngs of the fortress. But 
fast as they all got there, faster than all arrived Fergus, 
and he lifted the little lad from the ground on the slope of 
his shoulder and bore him into the presence of Conchobar. 
^They put him on Conchobar's knee. A great alarm 
arose amongst them that the king's sister's son should have 
been all but killed. ^ And Culann came out, and he saw 
his slaughter-hound in many pieces. He felt his heart 
beating against his breast. Whereupon he went into the 
dun. " Welcome thy coming, little lad," said Culann, 
** because of thy mother and father, but not welcome i& 
thy coming for thine own sake. * Yet would that I had 
not made a feast." ^ " What hast thou against the lad ? " 
queried Conchobar. " Not luckily for me hast thou come 
to quaff my ale and to eat my food ; for my substance 
is now a wealth gone to waste, and my livelihood is a 
livehhood lost ^now after my dog.^ * He hath kept 
honour and life for me.* Good was the friend thou hast 
robbed me of, ^ even my dog,^ in that he tended my herds 
and flocks and stock for me ; * he was the protection of 
all our cattle, both afield and at home." ^ "Be not angered 
thereat, O Culann my master," said the little boy. ' " It 
is no great matter,' for I will pass a just judgement upon 
it." " What judgement thereon wilt thou pass, lad ? " 
Conchobar asked. " If there is a whelp of the breed of that 
dog in Erin, he shall be reared by me till he be fit to do 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 529-530. 2.. .2 lu. and YBL. 532. 

3...3 Stowe, YBL. and LU. 533-534. 

*-4 LU. and YBL. 334. ^-e LU. and YBL. 535. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 536. '•••' LU. and YBL. 537. 

The Slaying of the Smith's Hound by Cuchulain 59 

business as was his sire. ^ Till then ^ myself will be the 
hound to protect his flocks and his cattle and his land ^ and 
even himself ^ in the meanwhile. ^ ^^^ j ^j^ safeguard 
the whole plain of Murthemne, and no one will carry off 
flock nor herd without that I know it.'* ^ 

****Well hast thou given judgement, little lad," said Con- 
chobar. " In sooth, we * ourselves * could not give one that 
would be better," said Cathba." " Why should it not be 
from this that thou shouldst take the name Cuchulain, 
(* Wolfhound of Culann ') ? " " Nay, then," answered the 
lad; ** dearer to me mine own name, Setanta son of Sual- 
taim." " Say not so, lad," Cathba continued ; "for the 
men of Erin and Alba shall hear that name and the mouths 
of the men of Erin and Alba shall be full of that name ! " 
" It pleaseth me so, whatever the name that is given me," 
quoth the little lad. Hence the famous name that stuck 
to him, namely Cuchulain, after he had killed the hound 
that was Culann's the Smith's. 

" A little lad did that deed," * added Cormac Conlongas *ll. fo. 64b 
son of Conchobar, " when he had completed six years after 
his birth, when he slew the watch-dog that hosts nor 
companies dared not approach in the same cantred. No 
need would there be of wonder or of surprise if he should 
come to the edge of the marches, if he should cut off the 
four-pronged fork, if he should slay one man or two men or 
three men or four men, now when his seventeen years are 
completed on the Cattle-driving of Cualnge I " 

1-1 Stowe. 2... 2 Literally, ' thyself, ' LU. and YBL. 539. 

»-3 LU. and YBL. 540-541. 

*•••* Stowe. ' The name of Conchobar's druid. 





"The little lad performed a third deed in the following 
year," said Fiachu son of Firaba. " What deed performed 
he ? " asked AiliU. 

" Cathba the druid was ^ with his son, namely Con- 
chobar son of Ness,^ imparting * learning* to his pupils 
in the north-east of Emain, and eight ° ^ eager ^ p«|»ls 
in the class of druidic cunning were with him. * That is 
the number that Cathba instructed. « 'One of them' 
questioned his teacher, what fortune and presage might 
there be for the day they were in, whether it was good or 
whether it was ill. Then spake Cathba : " The little boy 
that takes arms ^ this day^ shall be splendid and renowned 
® for deeds of arms ^ ^^ above the youths of Erin ^^ and 
the tales of his high deeds shall be told ^^ forever, ^° but he 
shall be short-hved and fleeting." Cuchulain overheard 
what he said, though far off at his play-feats south-west of 
Emain ; and he threw away all his play- things and hastened 
to Conchcbar's sleep-room ^^ to ask for arms.^- "All 

1—1 Eg. 1782. 2... 2 Lu^ fQ 5j;a^ in the margin. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 547. *-4 Stowe. 

" ' One hundred ' is the number in LU. and YBL. 547. 
5.. .5 LU. and YBL. 548. «•••« LU. and YBL. 548. 

'•••' Stowe. «."8 LU. and YBL. 550. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 551. lo-io LU. and YBL. 551-552. 

"•••11 Stowe. 12.. .12 LXJ. and YBL. 553. 


The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 6i 

1077. good attend thee, O king of the Fene! " cried the httle lad. 
" This greeting is the speech of one soUciting something of 
some one. What wouldst thou, lad ? " said Conchobar. 
** To take arms," the lad made answer. ** Who hath 
advised thee, httle boy ? " asked Conchobar. " Cathba the 
drnid," said the lad. " He would not deceive thee, little 
boy," said Conchobar. Conchobar gave him two spears 
and a sword and a shield. The little boy shook and brand- 
ished the arms ^ in the middle of the house ^ so that he 
made small pieces and fragments of them. Conchobar gave 
him other two spears and a shield and a sword. He shook and 
brandished, flourished and poised them, so that he shivered 
them into small pieces and fragments. There where were 
the fourteen ** suits of arms which Conchobar had in Emain, 
2 in reserve in case of breaking of weapons or ^ for equipping 
the youths and the boys — to the end that whatever boy 
assumed arms, it might be Conchobar that gave him the 
equipment of battle, and the victory of cunning would be 
his thenceforward — even so, this little boy made sphnters 
and fragments of them all. 

" "Truly these arms here are not good, O Conchobar my 
master," the stripling cried. " Herefrom cometh not what 
is worthy of me." Conchobar gave him his own two spears 
and his shield and his sword. He shook and he brandished, 
he bent and he poised them so that tip touched butt, and 
he brake not the arms and they bore up against him, ^ and 
he saluted the king whose arms they were.^ " Truly, 
these ^rms are good," said the little boy ; " they are 
suited to me. Hail to the king whose arms and equip- 
ment these are. Hail to the land whereout he is come! " 
"Then Cathba the druid chanced to come into the tent, 
and what he said was, " Hath he yonder taken arms ? " 

»• •» LU. and YBL. 557. 

• ' Fifteen,' LU. and YBL. 556 ; ' seventeen,' Stowe. 
. 2. ..2 LU. and YBL. 557. 3-.» LU. and YBL. 559-560. 

6a Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. iioi. Cathba asked. " Aye, then, it must be," Conchobar 
answered. " Not by ^ his ^ mother's son would I wish 
them to be taken this day," said Cathba. " How so ? 
Was it not thyself advised him ? " Conchobar asked. 
" Not I, in faith," replied Cathba. " What mean'st thou, 
bewitched elf-man?" cried Conchobar ^ to Cuchulain.^ 
LL. fo. 65a. " Is it a lie thou hast told us ? " * " But be not wroth 
3 thereat,^ O my master Conchobar," said the little boy. 

* " No he have I told ; * for yet is it he that advised me, 
5 when he taught his other pupils this morning. ^ For his 
pupil asked him what luck might lie in the day, and he said : 
The youth that took arms on this day would be illustrious 
and famous, ® that his name would be over the men of Erin 
for ever, and that no evil result would be on him thereafter,' 
except that he would be fleeting and short-lived. "^ To the 
south of Emain I heard him, and then I came to thee." ' 
" That I avow to be true," spake Cathba. ^ ** Good indeed 
is the day, ^ glorious and renowned shalt thou be, 

* the one that taketh arms,^ yet passing and short Uved ! " 
" Noble the gift ! " cried Cuchulain. ^o " Little it recks 
me,^° though I should be but one day and one night in the 
world, if only the fame of me and of my deeds live after 

" ^ Another day one of them asked of the druids for what 
that day would be propitious. " The one that mounts a 
chariot to-day," Cathba answered, " his name will be re- 
nowned over Erin for ever." Now Cuchulain heard that. 
He went to Conchobar and said to him, " O Conchobar 
my master, give me a chariot ! " He gave him a chariot .^^ 

1-1 Reading with Stowe, LU. and YBL. 563. 

2-» LU. and YBL. 566. 3... 3 stowe. 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 567. ^...s lu. and YBL. 567. 

••••• Stowe. '...' LU. and YBL. 568. 

«•••» LU. and YBL. 569. »•••» LU. and YBL. 570. 

*»-i» Stowe. "•••" LU. and YBL. 573-57^. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 63 

113' " Come, lad, mount the chariot, for this is the next thing 
for thee." 

" He mounted the chariot. ^He put his hands between 
the two poles of the chariot, ^ and the first chariot he mounted 
withal he shook and tossed about him till he reduced it to 
splinters and fragments. He mounted the second chariot, 
so that he made small pieces and fragments of it in like 
manner. Further he made pieces of the third chariot. There 
where were the seventeen ° chariots which Conchobar kept 
for the boy-troop and youths in Emain, the lad made small 
pieces and fragments of them and they did not withstand 
him. '* These chariots here are not good, O my master 
Conchobar,'* said the little boy ; " my merit cometh not 
from them.*' " Where is Ibar* son of Riangabair ? " asked 
Conchobar. " Here, in sooth, am I," Ibar answered. 
■"Take with thee mine own two steeds for him yonder, 
and yoke my chariot." Thereupon the charioteer took 
the horses and yoked the chariot. Then the little boy 
mounted the chariot ^and Conchobar's chaurioteer with 
him.^ He shook the chariot about him, and it with- 
stood him, and he broke it not. " Truly this chariot 
is good," cried the lad, " and this chariot is suited 
to me." 3 The charioteer turned the chariot under him.^ 
'* Prithee, httle boy," said Ibar, * " come out • of the 
chariot now * and let the horses out on their pasture." 
"It is yet too soon, O Ibar," the lad arswered. ^ " xhe 
horses are fair. I, too, am fair, their little lad.* « Only « 
let us go on a circuit of Emain to-day ' and thou shalt 
have a reward therefor,' to-day being my first day of 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 578. • ' Twelve,' LU. and YBL. 579. 

* The name of Conchobar's charioteer. 
2-2 LU. and YBL. 580-581 and Eg. 1782. 
»-3 LU. and YBL. 581. 

« Following the emendation suggested by Strachan and O'Keeffe, 
page 23, note 21. 

*-4 LU. and YBL. 582. »-6 LU. and YBL. 583. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 584. »-7 LU. and YBL. 585. 

64 Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 1132. taking arms, to the end that it be a victory of cunning for 

" Thrice they made the circuit of Emain. " Leave the 
horses now to their grazing, O Httle boy," said Ibar. '* It 
is yet too soon, O Ibar," the httle lad answered ; "let us 
keep on, that the boys may give me a blessing to-day the 
first day of my taking arms." They kept their course to 
the place where the boys were. "Is it arms he yonder 
has taken ? " each one asked. " Of a truth, are they."^ 
" May it be for victory, for first wounding and triumph. 
But we deem it too soon for thee to take arms, because 
thou depart est from us at the game-feats." "By no 
means will I leave ye, but for luck I took arms this day."^ 
" Now, little boy, leave the horses to their grazing," 
said Ibar. "It is still too soon for that, O Ibar," the lad 
answered. ^ " Ply the goad on the horses," said he. " What 
way, then ? " the charioteer asked. " As far as the road 
shall lead," answered Cuchulain.^ "And this great road 
winding by us, what way leads it ? " the lad asked. " What 
is that to thee ? " Ibar answered. " But thou art a plea- 
sant wight, I trow, little lad," quoth Ibar. " I wish, feUow, 
to inquire about the high-road of the province, what stretch 
it goes ? " "To Ath na Foraire {' the Ford of Watching ') 
in Sliab Fuait it goes," Ibar answered. " Wherefore is 
it called * the Ford of Watching,' knowest thou ? " " Yea, I 
know it well, ' ' Ibar made answer. ' * A stout warrior of Ulster 
is on watch and on guard there ^ every day,^ so that there 
come no strange youths into Ulster to challenge them to 
battle, and he is a champion to give battle in behalf of 
the whole province. Likewise if men of song leave the 
*LL. fo 65b. Ulstermen * and the province in dudgeon, he is there to 
soothe them by proffering treasures and valuables, and so 
to save the honour of the province. Again, if men of song 

»-i LU. and YBL. 589-590. 2...2 stowe. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 65 

55* enter the land, he is the man that is their surety that they 
win the favour of Conchobar, so that songs and lays made 
for him will be the first to be sung after their arrival in 
Emain." " Knowest thou who is at the ford to-day ? " 
" Yea, I know," Ibar answered ; " Conall Cernach (* the 
Triumphant '), the heroic, warlike son of Amargin, royal 
champion of Erin," Ibar answered. " Thither guide us, 
fellow, that so we reach the ford." 

" Onwards they drove into sight of the ford where was 
Conall. 1 Now it fell to Conall Cernach to guard the pro- 
vince that day. For each champion of Ulster spent his 
day on Sliab Fuait to protect him that came with a lay 
or to fight with a warrior, so that some one would be there 
to meet him, in order that none might come to Emain 
unperceived .^ ' ' Are those arms he yonder has taken ? ' ' asked 
Conall. *' Of atruth,^arethey," Ibar made answer. "May 
it be for victory and for triumph and first wounding," said 
Conall ; " but we think it too soon for thee to take arms, 
because thou art not yet capable of deeds. Were it surety 
he needed, he that should come hither," he continued, 
" so wouldst thou furnish a perfect warrant amongst the 
Ulstermen, and the nobles of the province would rise up ta 
support thee in the contest." " What dost thou here,. 
O Conall my master ? " asked the lad. " Watch and ward 
of the province, lad, I keep here," Conall made answer, 
" Do thou go home now, O master Conall," said the lad,, 
" and leave me the watch and guard of the province to 
keep here." " Say not so, little son," replied Conall ; 
* " 'twould be enough, were it to protect one that came 
with a song ; were it to fight with a man, however, that is 
still too soon for thee ^ ; thou art not yet able to cope with 
a goodly warrior." " Then, will I keep on to the south," 

»-i LU. and YBL. 592-596. 
*•••* LU. and YBL. 599-601. 

66 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1 1 72. said the little boy, " to Fertas (' the Bank ') of Loch Echtrann 
for a while ; ^ champions are wont to take stand there ; ^ 
perchance I may redden my hands on friend or on foe this 
day." " I will go, httle boy," said Conall, " to save thee, 
that thou go not alone ^ into peril ^ on the border." " Not 
so," said the lad. " But I will go," said Conall; " for the 
men of Ulster will blame me for leaving thee to go alone on 
the border." 

"Conall's horses were caught for him and his chariot 
was yoked and he set out to protect the Httle boy. When 
Conall came up abreast of him, Cuchulain felt certain that, 
even though a chance came to him, Conall would not permit 
him to use it. He picked up a hand-stone from the ground 
which was the full of his grasp. He hurled it from him 
3 from his sHng^ the length of a stone-shot at the yoke 
of Conall's chariot, so that he broke the chariot-collar ** in 
two and thereby Conall fell to the ground, so that the 
nape of his neck went out from his shoulder. " What have 
we here, boy ? " asked Conall ; * " why threwest thou 
the stone ? " * " It is I threw it to see if my cast be straight, 
or how I cast at all, or if I have the stuff of a warrior in me." 
" A bane on thy cast and a bane on thyself as well. E'en 
though thou leavest thy head this time with thine enemies, 
I will go no further to protect thee." " Twas what I 
craved of thee," answered he ; " for it is geis amongst you 
men of Ulster to proceed, after a mishap has befallen your 
chariots. ^ Go back ^ * to Emain,* ' O Conall, and leave 
me here to keep watch." " That pleaseth me well," re- 
plied Conall.' Conall turned back northwards again to 
the Ford of Watching. ^ Thereafter Conall Cemach went 
not past that place.^ 

» ••iLU.andYBL.603. 2...2Stowe. »-»LU.andYBL.6o4. 

- In LU. and YBL., ' the shaft of the chariot.' 

*•••* LU. and YBL 605-606. «•••« LU. and YBL. 608. 

« ••• LU. 608. '•••' LU. and YBL. 609-610. 

••••» LU. and YBL 610. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 67 

"As for the Httle boy, he fared southwards to Fertas 
Locha Echtrann. He remained there till the end of the 
day ^ and they found no one there before them.^ "If we 
dared tell thee, little boy," spoke Ibar, " it were time 
for us to return to Emain * now ; for dealing and carving *ll. fo. 66a. 
and dispensing of food is long since begun in Emain, and 
there is a place assigned for thee there. Every day it is 
appointed thee to sit between Conchobar's feet, while for 
me there is naught but to tarry among the hostlers and 
tumblers of Conchobar's household. ^ For that reason, ^ 
methinks it is time to have a scramble" among them.*' 
"Fetch then the horses for us." The charioteer fetched the 
horses and the lad mounted the chariot. " But, O Ibar, 
what hill is that there now, the hill to the north ? '* the lad 
asked. "Now, that is Shab Moduirn, ' ' Ibar answered. ^ * ' Let 
us go and get there," said Cuchulain. Then they go on 
till they reach it.^ *When they reached the mountain, 
Cuchulain asked,* " And what is that white cairn yonder 
on the height of the mountain ? " " And that is Finncharn 
('the White Cairn') of Sliab Moduirn," Ibar answered. 
" But yonder cairn is beautiful," exclaimed the lad. " It 
surely is beautiful," Ibar answered. " Lead on, fellow, 
till we reach yonder cairn." " Well, but thou art both a 
pleasant and tedious inquisitor, I see," exclaimed Ibar; 
" but this is my first ^journey and my first ^ time with 
thee. It shall be my last time till the very day of doom, 
if once I get back to Emain." 

*' Howbeit they went to the top of the hill. "It is 
pleasant here, O Ibar," the little boy exclaimed. " Point 
out to me Ulster on every side, for I am no wise acquainted 
with the land of my master Conchobar." The horseman 

1...1 LU. and YBL. 612. ^...a stowe. 

• Or, more literally, ' a clawing match.' 

»"•» LU. and YBL. 615-616. 4-* LU. and YBL. 616. 

■5—5 Stowe. 

68 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 121 1, pointed him out Ulster all around him. He pointed him 
out the hills and the fields and the mounts of the province- 
on every side. He pointed him out the plains and the duns- 
and the strongholds of the province. " Tis a goodly sight, 
O Ibar," exclaimed the little lad. " What is that indented, 
angular, bordered and glenny plain to the south of us ? " 
" Mag Breg," replied Ibar. " Tell thou tome the buildings 
and forts of that plain." The gilla taught him ^ the name of 
every chief dun between Temair and Cenannas,^ Temair 
and Taltiu, Cletech and Cnogba and Brug {* the Fort') of 
Mac ind Oc. ^ He pointed out to him then ^ the diin of 
the ^ three ^ sons of Necht Scene (' the Fierce ') : * Foill and 
Fandall and Tuachall, their names ; * ^ Fer Ulli son of 
Lugaid was their father, and Necht ^ from the mouth of 
the « Scene was their mother. Now the Ulstermen had 
slain their father ; it was for that reason they were at war 
with Ulster.^ *' But are those not Necht 's sons, that boast 
that not more of the Ulstermen are alive than have fallen 
at their hands ? " " The same, in sooth," answered the 
gilla. " On with us to the dun of the macNechta," 
cried the little boy. " Alas, in truth, that thou sayest 
so," quoth Ibar ; ^ '* 'tis a peril for us." ' ^ " Truly, not 
to avoid it do we go," answered Cuchulain.^ " We know 
it is an act of great folly for us to say so, but whoever may 
go," said Ibar, " it will not be myself." *' Living or dead, 
go there thou shalt," the little boy cried. " 'Tis aUve I 
shall go to the south," answered Ibar, " and dead I shall 
be left at the dun, I know, even at the dun of the mac- 

" They push on to the dun ^ and they unharness their 
horses in the place where the bog and the river meet south 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 620. 2...2 lu. and YBL. 623. 

3, ..3 LU. and YBL. 623. *•••* LU. and YBL. 624. 

*—s LU. 623, marginal note. "— " LU. 623, gloss. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 627. ••••« LU, and YBL. 628. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 69 

N. 1227. of the dun of the macNechta.^ And the httle boy sprang 
out of the chariot onto the green. Thus was the green of the 
dun, with a pillar-stone upon it and an iron band around 
that, and a band for prowess it was, and there was a writing in 
ogam at its joint, and this is the writing it bore : * Whoever 
should come to the green, if he be a champion, it is geis for 
him to depart from the green without giving challenge to 
single combat.' The lad deciphered the writing and put his 
two arms around the pillar-stone. Just as the pillar-stone 
was with its ring, he flung it ^ vv^ith a cast of his hand ^ into 
the moat, so that a wave passed over it. " Methinks," 
spake Ibar, "it is no better now than to be where it was. 
And we know thou shalt now get on this green the thing 
thou desirest, even the token of death, yea, of doom and 
destruction ! " ^ For it was the violation of a geis of the 
sons of Necht Scene to do that thing. ^ '* Good, O Ibar, 
spread the chariot-coverings and its skins for me that I 
may * snatch a little sleep." " Woe is me, that thou say- *LL. fo. 661 
€st so," answered the gilla ; " for a foeman's land is this 
and not a green for diversion." * And Cuchulain said to 
the gilla, " Do not awaken me for a few but awaken me 
for many." * The gilla arranged the chariot-coverings 
and its skins ^ under Cuchulain, and the lad fell asleep on 
the green. ^ 

" Then came one of the macNechta on to the fair-green, to 
wit, Foill son of Necht. ®Then was the charioteer sore 
afraid, for he durst not waken him, for Cuchulain had told 
him at first not to waken him for a few.* " Unyoke not 
the horses, gilla," cried Foill. " I am not fain to, at all," 
answered Ibar ; " the reins and the lines are still in my 
hand." " Whose horses are those, then ? " Foill asked. 

»-i LU. and YBL. 629. 

2-2 LU. and YBL. 630. ^...a lU. and YBL. 631. 

4-* LU. and YBL. 634-635. »•••« Stowe. 

••••« LU. and YBL. 635-638. 

70 Tain Bo Ctialnge 

1246. " Two of Conchobar's horses," answered the gilla ; " the 
two of the dappled heads." "That is the knowledge I 
have of them. And what hath brought these steeds here 
to the borders ? " "A tender youth that has assumed 
arms amongst us ^to-day for luck and good omen," ^ 
the horseboy answered, " is come to the edges of the marshes 
to display his comeliness." " May it not be for victory 
nor for triumph, ^ his first-taking of arms," ^ exclaimed 
Foill. 3 " Let him not stop in our land and let the horses 
not graze here any longer. ^ If I knew he was fit for deeds, 
it is dead he should go back northwards to Emain and 
not alive ! " "In good sooth, he is not fit for deeds," 
Ibar answered ; " it is by no means right to say it of him ; 
it is the seventh year since he was taken from the crib. 
* Think not to earn enmity," ° Ibar said further to the 
warrior ; ** and moreover the child sleepeth." * 

"The little lad raised his face from the ground and drew 
his hand over his face, and he became as one crimson 
wheelball from his crown to the ground. ^ " Not a child 
am I, at all, but it is to seek battle with a man that 
this child here is come.^ Aye, but I am fit for deeds! " 
the lad cried. * " That pleaseth me well," said the 
champion ; ^ " but more like than what thou say est, me- 
' seemeth, thou art not fit for deeds." " Thou wilt know 
that better if we go to the ford. But, go fetch thy weapons, 
for I see it is in the guise of a churl thou art come, and I 
slay nor charioteers nor grooms nor folk without arms." 
The man went apace after his arms. "^ " Now "^ thou 
shouldst have a care for us against yonder man ^ that comes 
to meet thee,^ little lad," said Ibar. " And why so ? " 

i-V Stowe. 2... 2 Lu. and YBL. 641. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 642. 

" That is, the enmity of the Ulstermen by slaying Cuchulain. 

4-. 4 LU. and YBL. 644-645. ^...s lu. and YBL. 645-646. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 647. 7.-' LU. and YBL. 649. 

8-8 LU. and YBL. 649. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 71 

1262. asked the lad. " Foill son of Necht is the man thou seest. 
Neither points nor edges of weapons can harm him." " Not 
before me shouldst thou say that, O Ibar," quoth the lad. 
'* I will put my hand to the lath-trick for him, namely, to 
the apple of twice-melted iron, and it will light upon the 
disc of his shield and on the flat of his forehead, and it will 
carry away the size of an apple of his brain out through 
the back of his head, so that it will make a sieve-hole out- 
side of his head, till the light of the sky will be visible 
through his head." 

" Foill son of Necht came forth. Cuchulain took the 
lath-trick in hand for him and threw it from him the length 
of his cast, so that it lighted on the flat of his shield and on 
the front of his forehead and carried away the bulk of an 
apple of his brain out through the back of his head, so that 
it made a sieve-hole thereof outside of his head, till the 
light of the sky might be seen through his head. ^He 
went to him then ^ and struck off the head from the trunk. 
2 Thereafter he bore away his spoils and his head with 
him. 2 

" Then came the second son out on the green, ^ his name* 
Tuachall (* the Cunning ') son of Necht. " Aha, I see thou 
wouldst boast of this deed," quoth Tuachall. 'Tn the first place 
I deem it no cause to boast for slaying one champion," said 
Cuchulain; "thou shalt not boast of it this time, for thou 
shalt fall by my hand. " " Off with thee for thine arms, then, 
for 'tis not as a warrior thou art come." The man rushed 
after his arms. * * Thou shouldst have a care for us against yon 
man, lad," said Ibar. " How so ?" the lad asked. "Tua- 
chall son of Necht is the man thou beholdest. *And he 
is nowise miss-named, for he falls not by arms at all.* 
Unless thou worstest him with the first blow or with the 
first shot or with the first touch,* thou wilt not worst him. *LL. fo. 67a. 

1...1 LU. and YBL. 665. 2...2 lu. and YBL. 655. 

3-3 Stowe. 4-* LU. and YBL. 662-663. 

72 Tain B6 Cualnge 

ever, because of his craftiness and the skill wherewith he 
plays round the points of the weapons/' " That should 
not be said before me, O Ibar," cried the lad. ^ " I swear 
by the god by whom my people swear, he shall never again 
ply his skill on the men of Ulster.^ I will put my hand on 
Conchobar's well-tempered lance, on the Craisech Neme 
{* the Venomous Lance '). ^ It will be an outlaw's hand to 
him.^ It will light on the shield over his belly, and it 
will crush through his ribs on the farther side after piercing 
his heart in his breast. That would be the smiting cast of 
an enemy and not the friendliness of a fellow countryman ! <* 
From me he shall not get sick-nursing or care till the brink 
of doom.*' 

*' Tuachall son of Necht came forth on the green, and the 
lad laid his hand on Conchobar's lance against him, and 
it struck the shield above his belly and broke through 
the ribs on the farther side after piercing his heart within 
his breast. He struck off his head or ever it reached the 
ground. ^ Thereafter Cuchulain carried off his head and 
his spoils with him to his own charioteer.^ 

" Then came the youngest of the sons forth on the green, 
namely, Fandall son of Necht. " Fools were the folk who 
fought with thee here," cried Fandall. " How, now ! " 
cried the lad. " Come down to the pool, where thy foot 
findeth not bottom." Fandall rushed on to the pool. 
"Thou shouldst be wary for us of him, little boy," said 
Ibar. " Why should I then ? " asked the lad. " Fandall 
son of Necht is the man whom thou seest. For this he 
bears the name Fandall (' the Swallow ') : like a swallow 
or weasel ^ he courseth the sea ; the swimmers of the world 

i-» LU. and YBL. 651-652. 

*— * LU. and YBL. 653 ; probably a proverbial expression. 

• The force of Cuchulain's boast lay in the fact that, according to 
the Brehon Laws, if the aggressor were not a native or of the same class 
as the injured party, he was exempt from the law of compensation. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 666. * LU. and YBL. have ' a swan.' 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 73 

1302. cannot reach him/' " Thou shouldst not speak thus before 
me, O Ibar/' said the lad. ^ " I swear, never again will 
he ply that feat on the men of Ulster.^ Thou knowest the 
river that is in our land, in Emain, the Callann. When 
the boys frequent it with their games of sport and when 
the water is not beneath them, ^ if the surface is not reached 
by them all, ^ I do carry a boy over it on either of my palms 
and a boy on either of my shoulders, and I myself do not 
even wet my ankles under the weight of them/' 

" They met upon the water ^and they engaged in wrest- 
ling upon it,^ and the little boy closed his arms over Fan- 
dall, so that the sea came up even with him, and he gave 
him a deft blow with Conchobar's sword and chopped ofi 
his head from the trunk, and left the body to go down with 
the stream, and he carried off the head * and the spoils * 
with him. 

*' Thereupon Cuchulain went into the dun and pillaged 
the place and burned it so that its buildings were no higher 
than its walls. And they turned on their way to Sliab 
Fuait and carried the three heads of Necht's sons with 
them. ^Soon Cuchulain heard the cry of their mother 
after them, of Necht Scene, namely." ^ ® " Now I 
will not give over my spoils," cried Cuchulain, " till I reach 
Emain Macha." Thereupon Cuchulain and Ibar set out for 
Emain Macha with their spoils. It was then Cuchulain 
spoke to his charioteer : ** Thou didst promise us a good 
run," said Cuchulain, " and we need it now because of the 
storm and pursuit that is after us." Forthwith they has- 
ten to Sliab Fuait. Such was the speed of the course they 
held over Breg, after the urging of the charioteer, that the 
horses of the chariot overtook the wind and the birds in 

»-i LU. and YBL. 657-658. 

*—2 Stowe. That is, when the water is over their heads. 

«-3 Stowe. *•••* LU. and YBL. 661. 

*•••» LU. and YBL. 667-668. «•••« LU. and YBL. 669-679. 

74 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1 31 7. their flight and Cuchulain caught the throw he had cast 
from his sHng or ever it reached the ground. 

*' When they came to Sliab Fuait ® they espied a herd 
of wild deer before them. " What are those many cattle, 
O Ibar, those nimble ones yonder ? " asked the lad ; " are 
they tame or are they other deer ? " " They are real wild 
deer, indeed,'' Ibar answered ; " herds of wild deer that 
haunt the wastes of Sliab Fuait." ^ " Which," asked 
Cuchulain, " would the men of Ulster deem best, to bring 
them dead or alive ? " " More wonderful, alive," an- 
swered the charioteer ; " not every one can do it so ; but 
dead, there is none of them cannot do it. Thou canst 
not do this, carry off any of them alive." " Truly I can," 
said Cuchulain.^ " Ply the goad for us on the horses ^ into 
the bog,2 to see can we take some of them." The char- 
ioteer drove a goad into the horses. It was beyond the 
power of the king's overf at steeds to keep up with the deer. 
3 Soon the horses stuck in the marsh. ^ The lad got down 
from the chariot and * as the fruit of his run and his race, in 
the morass which was around him,* he caught two of the 
swift, stout deer. He fastened them to the back poles and 
the bows and the thongs of the chariot. 

" They continued their way to the mound-seat of Emain, 
where they saw flocks of white swans flying by them. 
"What are those birds there, O Ibar? " the lad asked; 
*LL. fo. 67. " are yonder birds tame * or are they other birds ? " " In- 
deed, they are real wild birds," Ibar answered ; " flocks 
of swans are they that come from the rocks and crags and 
islands of the great sea without, to feed on the plains and 
smooth spots of Erin." " Which would be stranger ^ to 
the Ulstermen,^ O Ibar, for them to be fetched alive to 
Emain or dead ? " asked the lad. " Stranger far, alive," 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 669-679. ^-i LU. and YBL. 681-686. 

«-2 LU. and YBL. 686. '-^ LU. and YBL. 687. 

*•••* Stowe. «...5 LU. and YBL. 692. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 75 

1333' Ibar answered, " for not every one succeeds in taking the 
birds aUve, ^ while they are many that take them dead." ^ 
Then did the lad perform one of his lesser feats upon them : 
* he put a small stone in his sling, ^ so that he brought down 
eight ° of the birds ; and then he performed a greater 
feat : ^ he threw a large stone at them ^ and he brought 
down sixteen ^ of their number. * With his return stroke 
all that was done.* He fastened them to the hind poles 
and the bows and the thongs and the ropes and the traces 
of the chariot. 

** " Take the birds along with thee, O Ibar," cried the 
lad ^ to his charioteer. If I myself go to take them," he 
added, " the wild deer will spring upon thee." ^ "I am 
in sore straits," answered Ibar ; " * I find it not easy to 
go." ^ " What may it be ? " asked the lad. " Great 
cause have I. ' The horses have become wild, so that I 
cannot go by them.' If I stir at all from where I am, the 
chariot's iron wheels will cut me down ^ because of their 
sharpness ® and because of the strength and the power 
and the might of the career of the horses. If I make any 
move, the horns of the deer will pierce and gore me, ^ for 
the horns of the stag have filled the whole space between 
the two shafts of the chariot." ^ " Ah, no true champion 
art thou any longer, O Ibar," " said the lad ; ^° ^^ " step thus 
from his horn.^ ^I swear by the god by whom the 
Ulstermen swear, 12 because of the look I shall give at the 
horses they will not depart from the straight way ; at 
the look I shall give at the deer they will bend their heads 
in fear and awe of me ; ^ they will not dare move, ^^ and 

^•••i Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. « 'Seven/ LU. and YBL. 695. 

3-3 Stowe. * ' Twelve,' LU. and YBL. 696. 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 696-697. ^...s lu. and YBL. 698-699. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 699. '•••' LU. and YBL. 700. 

8-8 LU. and YBL. 702. »•••» LU. and YBL. 703. 

10. ..10 Stowe. 11-" LU. and YBL. 703. 

^ = •••12 LU. and YBL. 704. »•••" LU. and YBL. 706. 

76 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1346. it will be safe for thee e'en though thou goest in front of 
their horns.*' ^And so it was done. Cuchulain fastened 
the reins. ^ ^jhen^ 3 ^j^g charioteer ^ *went and collected 
the birds, and he bound them to the hind poles and to the 
thongs and the traces of the chariot.* ^Thus it was that 
he proceeded to Emain Macha : the wild deer behind his 
chariot, and the flock of swans flying over the same, and 
the three heads of the sons of Necht Scene ® and the jewels, 
treasures and wealth of their enemies arranged^ in his 

"'Thereupon' they went on till ^bravely, boldly, 
battle-victoriously, boastingly, blade-redded,® they reached 
^ the fair plain of ^ Emain. It was then Lebarcham, ^^ the 
watch in Emain Macha, ^^ ^ ^ came forth and ^^ discerned them, 
she, the daughter of Aue (* Ear ') and of Adarc (* Horn') 
^2 and she hastened to Conchobar's house, her eye restless in 
her head and her tongue faltering in her jaw.^^ '* A single 
chariot-fighter is here, incoming towards Emain Macha," ^* 
cried Lebarcham, " and his coming is fearful. The heads 
of his foes all red in his chariot with him. Beautiful, all- 
white birds he has hovering around in the chariot. With 
him are wild, untamed deer, bound and fettered, shackled 
and pinioned. And ^* I give my word,^* if he be not attended 
to this night, ^^ blood will flow over Conchobar's province 
by him and ^^ the youths of Ulster will fall by his hand." 
** We know him, that chariot-fighter," spake Conchobar ; 
" ^^behke it is^* the little gilla, my sister's son, who went 
to the edge of the marches ^' at the beginning of the day,^^ 

^•••1 LU. and YBL. 707. 2...2 stowe. 

'• -3 LU. and YBL. 708. 4. ..4 Stowe. 

5-5 LU. and YBL. 709-711. «"« H. 2. 17. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. 8. ..8 H. 2. 17. 

••••» H. 2. 17. 10...10 LU. and YBL. 713. 

11. ..11 H. 2. 17. '2.. .12 H. 2. 17. 

13. ..13 H. 2. 17. i*"i* H. 2. 17. 

16.. .16 H. 2. 17. i«-i6 H. 2. 17. 

1'-" H. 2. 17. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 77 

1355. who has reddened his hands and is still unsated of combat, 
and unless he be attended to, all the youths of Emain will 
fall by his hand." ^ Soon he turned the left ** side of his 
chariot towards Emain, and this was geis for Emain. And 
Cuchulain cried, " I swear by the god by whom the Ulster- 
men swear, if a man be not found to engage with me, I will 
spill the blood of every one in the dun ! " ^ 

** And this was the counsel they agreed to follow : to let 
out the womenfolk to meet the youth, namely, thrice fifty 
women, even ten and seven-score bold, stark-naked women, 
at one and the same time, and their chieftainess, Scannlach 
(' the Wanton ') before them, to discover their persons and 
their shame^ to him. ^ ** l^^ the young women go," said 
Conchobar, " and bare their paps and their breasts and 
their swelling bosoms, and if he be a true warrior he will 
not withstand being bound, and he shall be placed in a vat of 
cold water until his anger go from him." ^ 3 Thereupon ^ the 
young women all * arose and * marched out , ^ and these are the 
names of those queens: Sgamalus and Sgannlach and Sgiathan, 
Feidlim and Deigtini Finnchas, and Finngheal and Fidniam 
and Niam, daughter of Celtchar son of Uthechar ^ ; and they 
discovered their nakedness and all their shame to him. 
•"These are the warriors that will meet thee to-day," 
quoth Mugain, wife of Conchobar son of Ness.* The lad 
hid his face from them and turned his gaze on the chariot, 
that he might not see the nakedness or the shame of the 
women.* Then the lad was lifted out of the chariot. He 
was placed in three vats of cold water to extinguish his 
wrath ; and the first vat into which he was put burst its 
staves and its hoops like the cracking of nuts around him. 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 715-718. 

« To turn the left side was an insalt and sign of hostility. 
» ' Breasts.' LU. and YBL. 720. ^...a h. 2. 17. 3-» H. 2. 17. 
*••■* H. 2. 17. "-'^ H. 2. 17. «••« LU. and YBL. 720-721. 
* This exposure was a powerful magico-religious symbol and. 
had a quasi-sacred or ritual character. 

yS Tain Bo Cualnge 

"W . 1367. The next vat ^ into which he went ^ 2 boiled with bubbles as big 
as fists 2 therefrom. The third vat ^ into which he went,^ some 
men might endure it and others might not. Then the boy's 
wrath went down. 

*** Thereupon he came out,* and his ^festive* gar- 
ments were put on him * by Mugain the queen.* His 
XL. fo. 68a. comeliness appeared on him * and he made a crimson 
wheel-ball of himself from his crown to the ground. 'A 
shout was raised at the bluish purple about him.' « Beauti- 
ful then was the lad^ ^that was raised up in view.* 
Seven toes he had to each of his two feet, and seven 
fingers to each of his two hands, and seven pupils to 
each of his two kingly eyes, and seven gems of the 
brilliance of the eye was each separate pupil. Four 
spots of down on either of his two cheeks : a blue spot, a 
purple spot, a green spot, a yellow spot. Fifty strands of 
bright-yellow hair from one ear to the other, like to a comb 
of birch twigs or like to a brooch of pale gold in the face 
of the sun. A clear, white, shorn spot was upon him, as 
if a cow had licked it. A^^ fair, laced ^^ green " mantle about 
him; a silver pin therein ^^over his white breast, so that 
the eyes of men could not look at it for its gleam and its 
brightness.^i A ^^ hooded ^^ tunic of thread of gold about him. 
^' A magnificent, fair-coloured, dark purple shield he bore. 
Two hard, five-pointed spears in his hand. A diadem of gold 
round his head ^^ And the lad was seated between the two 
feet of Conchobar, 1* and that was his couch ever after ,1* and 
the king began to stroke his close-shorn hair. 

^•••^ Stowe. 2... 2 Translating from Stowe and H. 2. 17. 

8-» H. 2. 17. *••.* LU. and YBL. 726. 

«-5 Stowe. «...« LU. 726. 

'— ' H. 2. 17. Thumeysen, Zeitschrift fiir Celtische Philologie, Bd. 
VIII, S. 538, note 13, understands this to mean, * a bluish purple 
cloak was thrown around him.* ^--^ Stowe and H. 2. 17. 

••••»H. 2. 17. "-WH. 2. 17. «' Blue,' LU. and YBL. 727 and Eg. 1782. 

"•••" H. 2. 17. 12...12 LU. and YBL. 727. "-i* H. 2. 17. 

14...14 LU. and YBL. 728. 

The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain 79 

1381. "A mere lad accomplished these deeds at the end of 
seven years after his birth," ^ continued Fiachu son of 
Fiarba ; ^ " for he overcame heroes and battle-champions 
at whose hands two-thirds of the men of Ulster had fallen, 
and these had not got their revenge on them until that 
scion rose up for them. No need then is there of wonder 
or of surprise, though he came to the border, though he 
slew one man or two men or three men or four men, * though 
he cut off the four-headed pole with one cut and one blow 
of his shining sword ^ when now are fulfilled his seventeen 
years at the time of the Tdin Bo Cualnge." 

'Albeit gladness, joy and happiness was the part of the 
men of Ulster for that, sorrow, grief and unhappiness was 
the part of the men of Erin, for they knew that the little 
lad that had done those deeds in the time of his boyhood, 
it would be no wonder if he should do great deeds of valour 
in the time of his manhood.^ 

These, accordingly, are some of the youthful exploits of 
Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge, and the 
Prologue of the Tale, and the Names of the Roads and the 
March of the Host up to this Point. 

The Story proper is this which follows now. 

»..-i LU. and YBL. 729-730. 2-« H. 2. 17. =»-' H. 2. 17. 



" Let us fare forth now/' quoth AiUlL Thereafter they 
reached Mag Mucceda (' the plain of the Swineherd.*) Cuchu- 
lain lopped off an oak that was before him in that place and 
set an ogam-writing on its side. This is what was on it : 
' That no one should pass by till a chariot-warrior with a 
chariot should overleap it.' 

They pitch there their tents and proceed to leap over 
the oak in their chariots. Thereat thirty horses fall and 
thirty chariots are broken. Now, Belach An^ {' the Pass 
of Sport ') is the name of that place forever. 

They bide there till morning. Fraech ^ son of Fidach^ 
was summoned to them. " Help us, O Fraech," spake 
Medb ; " deliver us from the strait we are in. Rise up for 
us to meet Cuchulain, if perchance thou wilt fight him." 

Betimes in the morning, with nine men Fraech went out 
from thence till he arrived at Ath Fuait, when he saw the 
youth Cuchulain bathing in the river. " Bide here," spake 
Fraech to his people, *' till I fight with yonder man ; he is 
not good in the water," said he. He doffs his clothes and 
goes into the water to meet him. " Come not before me," 
cried Cuchulain ; "it shall be thy death and it would grieve 
me to kill thee." " Nay, but I will go," answered Fraech, 
" so that we come together in the water, audit behoves thee 
to engage with me." " Settle that as seemeth thee good," 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 733-766. 2-* YBL. 741. 


A Separate Version 8i 

Cuchulain made answer. " Each of us with his arms round 
the other," said Fraech. They fall to wrestling for a long 
time in the water and Fraech is thrust under. Cuchulain 
brings him above again. " This time," spake Cuchulain, 
" wilt thou acknowledge that I saved thee ? " "I will 
not/ ' Fraech answered. Cuchulain thrusts him under again, 
so that Fraech is destroyed. He is placed on the ground. His 
people bear the body ^° with them ^° to the camp. Ath Fraeich 
(' Fraech's Ford ') is the name of that ford for ever. All the 
army keen ^ their ^ Fraech, tjll they see a troop of women 
in green tunics standing over the corpse of Fraech son of 
Fidach. These women bear him into the fairy dwelling. 
Sid Fraeich (' Fraech's Mound ') is the name of the Elf- 
mound ever since. 

Fergus leaps over the oak-stump in his ^own^ chariot 
*and knocks off its head.* ^ According to another ver- 
sion,^ they proceed till they reach ^ Ath Meislir.* Cuchulain 
destroys six of them there, namely, ' Meislir et reliqua,'^ 
8 the six Dungals of Irrus.^ 

They go thence to Fornocht. Medb had a whelp named 
Baiscn^. Cuchulain made a cast at him, so that he struck 
off his head. Now, Druim (' Ridge ') is the name of that 
place ever after.^ 

* According to another version, however, it is there 
that the youth who was in the chariot by the side of Medb 
and the pet bird were slain by the casts, but, according to 
this version, that happened after the slaying of Orlam.* 

10...10 £g j^g2 2...2 YBL. 758. 3-3 Eg. 1782. 

*•••'* Eg. 1782. ^-^ YBL. 762. 

«•••« Reading with YBL. ' Ath Taiten,' LU. 762. 

''•••' YBL. 763. 8..-« LU. 763. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 733-766 (seepage 80). »•••» YBL. 766-769* 



The four grand provinces of Erin set forth on the morrow 
eastwards over Cronn (' the Round '), which is a mountain. 
Cuchulain had gone out before them, till he came upon the 
charioteer of Orlam son of Aililla and of Medb. This was at 
Tamlacht Orlaim ('Orlam's Gravestone') ^ a little to the^ north 
of Disert Lochaid (' Lochat's Hermitage'). The charioteer 
was engaged in cutting chariot-poles from a holly-tree in 
the wood. 2 But according to another version it is the 
hind pole of Cuchulain's chariot that was broken and it 
was to cut a pole he had gone when Orlam's charioteer came 
up." ^ According to this version, it was the charioteer who 
was cutting the pole.^ 

^ Not long was the battle -victorious Hound there when 
he heard a sound and an uproar.* " Behold, O Laeg," cried 
Cuchulain ; " ^ who of the host of the foe have come into this 
land to carry off a share of cattle and booty from the pre- 
vince wherein they came ? '^ How bold are the ways of 
the Ulstermen, if it be they that cut down the woods in this 
fashion in the face of the men of Erin. But, * check the 
liorses and hold the chariot.^ Tarry thou here a little, till I 
know who cuts down the woods in this manner." Then 
Cuchulain went on till he came up to ' Orlam's ' charioteer, 

»-i LU. and YBL. 772. 2... 2 yBL. 773-775. 

3...3 LU. 773-775. 

*•••* H. 2. 17. 6.. .5 H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. 

'•••' Stowe. 


The Slaying of Orlam 83 

1 40 1. Uo stop him; he thought he was one of the men of 
Ulster. 1 " What dost thou here, gilla ? " asked Cuchulain. 
" Indeed, then," answered the gilla, " I cut chariot- 
poles from this holm, because our chariots were broken 
yesterday in pursuit of that famous wildling, namely 
Cuchulain. And for thy manhood's sake, young warrior, 
pray come to my aid, so that that famous Cuchulain come 
not upon me." " Take thy choice, gilla," said Cuchu- 
lain, " to gather or to trim them, either." " I will see to 
gathering them, for it is easier," ^ the gilla answered. ^ 
Cuchulain started to cut the poles and he drew them be- 
tween the forks of his feet and his hands against their bends 
and their knots, so that he made them smooth and straight 
and slippery and trimmed ; he polished them so that not 
even a midge could find footing thereon when he had 
passed them away from him. Then full sure the gilla gazed 
upon him. " Far then, meseems, from fitting is the task 
I put on thee. ^And for love of thy valour,^ who art 
thou, say, O warrior? " the gilla asked, *for he was sore 
affrighted.* "That same renowned Cuchulain am I of 
whom thou spakest ^ a while ago ^ in the morning." " Woe 
is me then, by reason of this," cried the gilla ; "for this 
am I lost forever." • ^ " Whence comest thou 'and who *LL. fo. 68b, 
art thou ' ? " Cuchulain asked. " Charioteer am I of Orlam, 
Ailili's son and Medb's," « » said he.s » " Fear nothing ; » I 
will not slay thee at all, boy," said Cuchulain ; " f or I 
slay nor charioteers nor horseboys nor persons unarmed. 
But, prithee, where is thy master, ^^ gilla ^®? " " Over yon- 
der by the trench, 11 with his back to the pillar-stone, ^i" 
answered the gilla. " Off with thee thither to him and 
bear him a warning that he be on his guard. For if we 
meet he shall fall by my hand." 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 777. 2.. .2 stowe. 

3-3 H. 2. 17. 4-4 LU. and YBL. 786. '"'^ H. 2. 17. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 786-787. '-' H. 2. 17. ^-s LU. 787. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 789. "-lo H. 2. 17. "-11 H. 2. 17. 

84 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1419. Thereupon the charioteer repaired by one way^ to his 
master, ^ and Cuchulain went by another, * and fast as 
the gilla sped to Or lam, faster still Cuchulain did reach 
him 2 and offered him combat ^ and he struck off his 
head, and raising it aloft displayed it to the men of 
Erin, * and he flourished it in the presence of the host.* 
^Then he put the head on the charioteer's back and 
said, " Take this with thee, and so go to the camp. Unless 
thou goest so, a stone out of my sling will reach thee." 

When the charioteer came nigh to the camp he took 
the head from his back and told his adventures to Ailill 
and Medb. " It is not tne same, this exploit and the catch- 
ing of birds," quoth she. " And he told me " (said the 
boy), " unless I brought it on my back to the camp, he would 
break mylhead with a stone." ^ ^ Hence Leaca Orlaim 
(' Orlam's Flagstones ') to the north of Disert Lochaid is the 
name of the.; place where he felli Tamlachta (' Grave- 
stones ') is another name for it, and it is for this reason it 
is so called because of the little gravestones and the violent 
deaths which Cuchulain worked on it." ® 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2.. .2 H. 2.^17. 3...3 H. 2. 17. 

4-4 Stowe, LU. and YBL. 792. 

»•••« LU. and YBL. 793-799. «-« H. 2. 17. 



W. 1425. Then came the three macArach on to the ford at Ard 
Ciannacht to encounter Cuchulain : Lon [(' Ouser), Uala 
(' Pride '), and DiHu (' Deluge ') ;— MesHr {' Lir's Fosterling'), 
and Meslaoc (' Hero's FosterUng '), and Meslethain (' Lethan's 
Fosterling') were the names of their charioteers. This is 
why they came to engage with Cuchulain, for the deed he 
had done the day before they deemed past bearing, when 
the two sons of Nera son of Nuatar, son of Tacan, were 
slain atAth Gabla (' Fork-ford'), and Orlam,Ailiirs son and 
Medb's, was slain withal and his head displayed to the men 
of Erin, so that 2 their desire was 2 to kill Cuchulain in the 
same manner ^ in revenge for him,^ * and that they should 
be the ones to rid the host of that pest * and bring his head 
with them to set it aloft. They went into the wood and cut 
off three ^ great ^ white-hazel wood-strips (and put them) into 
the hands of their charioteers, so that the six of them might 
engage in battle at one and the same time with Cuchulain. 
Cuchulain turned on them and smote their six heads from 
them. Thus fell the macArach at the hands of Cuchulain, 
•because they observed not fair fight with him. At that 
same time Orlam's charioteer was between Ailill and Medb. 
Cuchulain slung a stone at him, so that it broke his head 
and his brains came out over his ears. Fertedil was his 
name. Hence it is not true that Cuchulain slew no chariot- 
eers. Albeit he slew them not without fault.* 

^—1 H. 2. 17, and, similarly, LU. fo. 64a, in the margin. LU. reads 
MacGarach. 2... 2 stowe. 

»-3 LU. and YBL. 806. «-* LU. and YBL. 806-807. 

••••» H. 2. 17. «•••« LU. and YBL. 808-812. 




W. 1 439. There came also Lethan (' the Broad ') to his ford on the Nith 
in the land of Conalle Murthemni, to fight with Cuchulain. 
2 He was angered at what Cuchulain had wrought. 2 He came 
upon him at the ford. Ath Carpait {' Chariot-ford') is the 
name of the ford where they fought, for their chariots were 
broken in the combat on the ford. It is there that Mulcha, 
^ Lethan's charioteer,^ fell on the * shoulder of the ^ hill 
between the two fords, ^ for he had offered battle and com- 
bat to Laegsonof Riangabair.^ Hence it is called Guala 
Mulchi (' Mulcha's Shoulder ') ever since. It is there, too, that 
Cuchulain and Lethan met, and Lethan fell at Cuchulain's 
hands and he smote his head from his neck on the ford and 
left it therewith, that is, he left the head with the trunk. 
Wherefore the name of the ford ^ of the Nith ^ was called 
Ath Lethain (' Lethain's Ford *) ever since in the district 
of Conalle Murthemni. 

Then came ' unto them " the Crutti Cainbili (' the Tuneful 
Harpers'), from Ess Ruaid in the north to amuse them, 
^ out of friendship for Ailill and Medb.^ They opined it was 
to spy upon them * they were come * from Ulster. ^° When 
they came within sight of the camp of the men of Erin, 
fear, terror, and dread possessed them,^^ and the hosts pur- 

^•••^ The superscription is taken from Stowe. 

8-2 LU. and YBL. 837. 3.. .3 lu. and YBL. 841. 

4-* LU. and YBL. 841. 6...5 h. 2. 17. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 839 and Stowe. '•••' H. 2. 17. 

»-8 H. 2. 17. »•••» Stowe. i»-" H. 2. 17. 


The Combat of Lethan and Cuchulain 87 

W. 1450. sued them as never men pursued, far and wide, till they 
escaped them in the shapes of deer near the standing stones 
at Lia Mor ('Great Stone') ^in the north. ^ For though 
they were known as the * Mellifluous Harpers ' they were 
2 druids, ^ men of great cunning and great power of augury 
and magic. 

1...1 LU. and YBL. 835. 2. ..2 lu. and YBL 835. 



W. 1456. Then Cuchulain made a threat ^ in Methe ^ that wherever 
he saw Medb he would cast a stone at her and that it would 
not go far from the side of her head. That he also fulfilled. 
In the place where he saw Medb west of the ford he cast a 
stone from his sling at her, so that it killed the pet bird 
that was on her shoulder. Medb passed over the ford east- 
wards, and again he cast a stone from his sling at her east of 
the ford, so that it killed the tame squirrel that was on her 
shoulder. Hence the names of those places are still, Meide 
in Togmail (' Squirrel's Neck ') and Meide ind Eoin {' Bird's 
Neck '). And Ath Srethe (' Ford of the Throw') is the name 
of the ford over which Cuchulain cast the stone from his 

3 Then Renin was drowned in his lake. Hence is Loch 
Renin. " Your companion is not afar off from you," cried 
Ailill to the Mane. They stood up and looked around. 
When they sat down again, Cuchulain struck one of them 
so that his head was split. "It is well it was thou hast 
essayed that ; thy * mirth was not seemly," quoth Mane 
the fool; " it is I would have taken his head ofE." Cuchu- 
lain flung a stone at him, so that his head was split. Thus 

1—1 The superscription is taken from LU. fo. 64a, in the margin. 

2-a LU. and YBL. 813. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 820-831 and, partly, in Eg. 1782. 

« Literally, ' your.' 

The Killing of the Squirrel 89 

these people were slain : Orlam, first of all, on his hill ; 

the three sons of Arach " on their ford ; Fertidil in his 

, . . (?) ; Maenan on his hill. ** I swear by the god by 

whom my people swear/' cried Ailill; " the man that scoffs 

at Cuchulain here I will make two halves of. But above 

all let us hasten our way by day and* by night," Ailill 

continued, *' till we come to Cualnge. That man will slay 

two-thirds of your host in this fashion." ^ 

^Then did the men of Erin deliberate about going to 

ravage and lay waste Mag Breg and Meath and the plain of 

Conall and the land of Cuchulain; and it was in the 

presence of Fergus macRoig they discussed it. ^ 

W. 1465. The four grand provinces of Erin moved out on the 

morrow, and began to harry the plains of Breg and Mur- 

themne. And the sharp, keen-edged anxiety * for Cuchu- *LL. fo. 69 

lain came over his fosterer Fergus. And he bade the men 

of Erin be on their guard that night, for that Cuchulain 

would come upon them. And here again he sang in his 

praise, as we wrote it before,* and he uttered the lay : — 

" If Cuchulain, Cualnge's Hound, 
And Red Branch chiefs on you come. 
Men will welter in their blood. 
Laying waste Murthemne's plain ! 

* " Woe to him possesses wealth, 
'Less he find a way to 'scape ; 
And your wives will be enslaved. 
And your chiefs fill pools of blood ! * 

" Far away he « held his course, 
Till he reached Armenia's heights ; 
Battle dared he, past his wont. 
And the Burnt-breasts ^ put to death ! 

" Hardest for him was to drive 
Necht's sons from their chieftest haunts ; 
And the smith's hound — mighty deed — 
Hath he slain with single hand I 

• Garech; LU. and YBL. 827. 
*'-^ H. 2. 17. * See above, p. 41. 

*•••* H. 2. 17. « That is, Cuchulain. 

^ That is, the Amazons. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 820-831 

and, partly, in Eg. 1782. 

90 Tain Bo Cualnge 

" More than this I've naught to say. 
As concerns Dechtire's son ; 
My behef, in troth, is this : 
Ye will now meet with your fate." 

After this lay, that was the day that Donn (' the Brown 
Bull ') of Cualnge came into the land of Margine ^ to Sliab 
Cuhnn ^ and with him fifty heifers' of the heifers ^ of Ulster ; ^ 
and there he was pawing and digging up the earth in that 
place, 3 in the land of Margine, in Cualnge ; ^ that is, he 
flung the turf over him with his heels. * While the hosts 
were marching over Mag Breg, Cuchulain in the mean- 
while laid hands on their camps.* It was on the same 
day that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, ^the pro- 
phetess^ of the fairy-folk, came ®in the form of a bird,* 
and she perched on the standing-stone in Temair of 
Cualnge giving the Brown Bull of Cualnge warning 
'and lamentations' before the men of Erin. Then she 
began to address him and what she said was this : 
" Good, now, O luckless one, thou Brown Bull of Cualnge," 
so spake the Morrigan ; " take heed; for the men of Erin 
8 are on thy track and seeking thee^ and they will come 
upon thee, and ^if thou art taken ^ they will carry thee 
away to their camp ^^ like any ox on a raid,^° unless thou art 
on thy guard." And she commenced to give warning ta 
him in this fashion, '^ telling him he would be slain on the 
Tdin, and she delivered this judgement ^ and spake these 
words aloud : ^ — 

" Knows not the restless Brown of the ^^ truly deadly ^^ 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 853. 2... 2 stowe. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 857. 4.. .4 LU. and YBL. 842-843. 

«-6 H. 2. 17. «•••« LU. and YBL. 844. '•••' H. 2. 17. 

8...8 H. 2. 17. »-9 H. 2. 17. "•••" H. 2. 17. "•••" H. 2. 17, 

<» The following passage in 'rose ' is exceedingly difficult and obscure,, 
and the translation given here is consequently incomplete and 

12...12 LU. and YBL. 846, and Stowe. 

The Killing of the Squirrel 91 

W. 1502. fray that is not uncertain ? — A raven's " croak — ^The raven 
that doth not conceal — Foes range your checkered plain 
— 1 Troops on raids ^ — I have a secret — Ye shall know 
. . . The waving fields — ^The deep-green grass . . . and 
rich, soft plain — Wealth of flowers' splendour — Badb's cow- 
lowing — Wild the raven — Dead the men — A tale of woe — 
Battle-storm * on Cualnge evermore, to the death of mighty 
sons — Kith looking on the death of kin!" 

2 When the Brown Bull of Cualnge heard those words ^ 
he moved on to Glenn na Samaisce (' Heifers' Glen ') in Sliab 
Culinn (' Hollymount ') ^in the north of Ulster, ^ and fifty 
of his heifers with him, * and his herdsman accompanied 
him; Forgemen was the name of the cowherd.* ^And 
he threw off the thrice fifty boys who were wont to play on 
his back and he destroyed two-thirds of the boys.^ This 
was one of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge : 
Fifty heifers he would cover every day. These calved before 
that same hour on the next day and such of them that 
calved not * at the due time ^ burst with the calves, because 
they could not suffer the begetting of the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge. One of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge were the fifty ' grown "^ youths who engaged in 
games, ^who^ on his fine back ® found room* every 
evening ^^to play draughts and assembly* and leap- 
ing 1° ; 11 he would not put them from him nor would 
he totter under them.^^ Another of the magic virtues 
of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was the hundred warriors 

« The Morrigan, the Irish goddess of battle, most often appeared 
in the form of a raven. 

^•••1 Reading with H. 2. 17. 

* Translating doe, as suggested by Windisch. 
2-2 Stowe. 3.. .3 n 2. 17. 

4-4 LU. and YBL. 854, and H. 2. 17. 

»-5 LU. and YBL. 855-856. «•••« Stowe. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. »"8 H. 2. 17. »•••» H. 2. 17. 

* Apparently the name of some game. 10... 10 jj. 2. 17, 
"•••11 H. 2. 17. 

92 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1535. he screened from the heat and the cold under his shadow 
and shelter. Another of the magic virtues of the Brown 
Bull of Cualnge was that no goblin nor boggart nor sprite 
of the glen dared come into one and the same cantred with 
him. Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge was his musical lowing every evening as he returned 
to his haggard, his shed and his byre. It was music enough 
and delight for a man in the north and in the south, ^ in the 
east and the west,^ and in the middle of the cantred of 
Cualnge, the lowing he made at even as he came to his 
haggard, his shed, and his byre. These, then, are some of 
the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. 

Thereupon on the morrow the hosts proceeded among 
the rocks and dunes of the land of Conalle Murthemni. 
3 Cuchulain killed no one from Saile (' the Sea ') around 
Dorthd in the land of Conalle, until he reached Cualnge. 
At that time Cuchulain was in Cuince, ^ that is a moun- 
tain. ^ He had threatened that, where he would see Medb, 
he would hurl a stone at her head. It was not easy to do 
this, for it was thus Medb went, with half the host around 
her and their canopy of shields over her head.^ And 
Medb ordered a canopy of shields to be held over her head 
in order that Cuchulain might not strike her from the hills 
or hillocks or heights. Howbeit on that day, no killing 
nor attack came from Cuchulain upon the men of Erin, in 
the land of Murthemne among the rocks and' dunes of 
Conalle Murthemni. . 

1-^ H. 2. 17. 2...2 Lu. 860. 3-3 LU. and YBL. 858-863. 



V. 1552. The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin 
bided their time in Rede Loche in Cualnge and pitched 
camp and took quarters therein for that night. Medb 
bade her fair handmaiden from amongst her attendants 
to go for her to the river for water for drinking and washing. 
Loche was the name of the maiden. Thereupon Lochd 
went, and fifty • women in her train and the queen's diadem 
of gold on her head. And Cuchulain ^ espied them and 
he 2 ^ put a stone on his sHng and ^ cast * a stone from his *L.Lfo. 69b 
* staff *-sHng at her, so that he broke the diadem of gold 
in three pieces and killed the maiden on her plain. Thence 
is Rede Loche (* the Plain of Lochd ') in Cualnge. For 
Cuchulain had thought, for want of acquaintance and 
knowledge, that it was Medb that was there. 

5 From Finnabair of Cualnge the hosts divided and set 
the country on fire. They gathered all their women and 
boys and girls and cattle in Cualnge together so that they 
all were in Finnabair. " Ye have not fared well,*' quoth 
Medb ; " I see not the bull amongst you." "He is not 
in the land at all," replied every one. They summoned 
Lothar, the cowherd, to Medb. " Where, thinkest thou, 
is the bull ? " she asked. " I have great fear to tell," said 

1--1 LU. fo. 65a, in the margin. • 'forty,' H. 2. 17. 

2...2 H. 2. 17. 3. ..3 stowe. *•••* H. 2. 17. 

6-» LU. and YBL. 867-887. 

94 Tain Bo Cualnge 

the cowherd. " The night," said he, " that the Ulstermen 
fell into their * Pains,' the Donn went and three score 
heifers along with him ; and he is at Dubcaire Glinni Gat 
('the Black Corrie of the Osier-glen')." "Rise," said 
Medb, " and take a withy between each two of you." And 
they do accordingly. Hence is the name, Glenn Gatt, of 
that glen. 

Then they led the bull to Finnabair. In the place where 
the bull saw Lothar, the cowherd, he attacked him, and 
soon he carried his entrails out on his horns and together 
with his thrice fifty heifers he attacked the camp, so that 
fifty warriors perished. Hence this is the Tragical Death 
of Lothar on the Tdin ^ and the Finding of the Bull accord- 
ing to this version.^ ^ Thereafter the bull went from them 
away from the camp and they knew not whither he had 
gone from them and they were ashamed. Medb asked 
the cowherd if he might know where the bull was. " I 
trow he is in the wilds of Sliab Culinn." ^ Then they turned 
back ravaging Cualnge and they found not the bull there. ^ 

1—1 YBL. 882, which adds : ' We will not follow it further 

2---2 LU., edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe, page 34, note 16. 
«•••« (See page 93) LU. and YBL. 867-887. 



^ 1563. 2 Early ^ on the morrow the hosts continued their way 
3 to lay waste the plain of Murthemne and to sack Mag 
Breg and Meath and Machaire Conaill (' Conall's Plain *) 
and the land of Cualnge. It was then that the streams and 
rivers of Conalle Murthemni rose to the tops of the trees, and 
the streams of the Cronn rose withal, until the hosts arrived 
at Glaiss Cruinn (* Cronn's Stream ').^ And they attempted 
the stream and failed to cross it * because of the size 
of its waves,* ^so that they slept on its bank.^ And 
Cluain Carpat (' Chariot-meadow ') is the name of the first 
place where they reached it. This is why Cluain Carpat 
is the name of that place, because of the hundred f chariots 
which the river carried away from them to the sea. Medb 
ordered her people that one of the warriors should go try 
the river. And ^ on the morrow * there arose a great ^ 
stout, 'wonderful' warrior of the ® particular^ people 
of Medb * and Ailill,^ Uala by name, and he took on his 
back a massy rock, i<> to the end that Glaiss Cruinn might 
not carry him back.^° And he went to essay the stream, 
and the stream threw him back dead, lifeless, with his 

^•••^ LU. fo. 65a, in the margin. 2. ..2 jj. 2. 17. 

3-« H. 2. 17. *•••* Stowe. 6-6 LU. 887, a gloss. 

• H. 2. 17 has ' fifty charioteers.' 

«••« LU. and YBL. 889. '-' LU. and YBL. 889. 

«-8 H. 2. 17. »•••« H. 2. 17. "•••" H. 2. 17. 


96 Tain Bo Ctialnge 

W. 1571. stone on his back ^ and so he was drowned.^ Medb ordered 
that he be Hfted ^ out of the river then ^ 3 by the men of 
Erin ^ and his grave dug * and his keen made * and his stone 
raised ^over his grave,^ so that it is thence Lia Ualann 
(' Uala's Stone ') ^ on the road near the stream ® in the land 
of Cualnge. 

Cuchulain clung close to the hosts that day provoking^ 
them to encounter and combat. ' Four and seven score 
kings fell at his hands at that same stream, "^ and he slew 
a hundred of their ^ armed, ^ ^ kinglike ^ warriors around 
Roen and Roi, the two chroniclers of the Tdin. ^^ This is 
the reason the account of the Tdin was lost and had to 
be sought afterwards for so long a time.^^ 

Medb called upon her people to go meet Cuchulain in, 
encounter and combat ^^for the sake of the hosts. ^^ " It 
will not be I,'* and " It will not be I," spake each and every 
one from his place. " No caitiff is due from my people. 
Even though one should be due, it is not I would go to 
oppose Cuchulain, for no easy thing is it to do battle with 

12 When they had failed to find the Donn Cualnge,^* 
the hosts kept their way along the river ^^ around the 
river Cronn to its source, ^^ being unable to cross it, till 
they reached the place where the river rises out of the moun- 
tains, and, had they wished it, they would have gone be- 
tween the river and the mountain, but Medb would not 
allow it, so they had to dig and hollow out the mountain 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2-2 Stowe. 3-3 H. 2. 17. 

*•••* H. 2. 17. «-5 H. 2. 17. «•••« LU. and YBL. 891. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 900. s.-.s stowe and H. 2. 17. 

»•••» H. 2. 17. 

10... 10 H. 2. 17 ; the story of the finding of the Tain is told in the 
Imtheacht na Tromdhaimhe (" The Proceedings of the Great Bardic 
Institution "), edited by Owen Connellan, in the Transactions of the 
Ossianic Society, vol. v, 1857, pp. 103 fi. 

11-11 Stowe. ^2.. .12 H. 2. 17. 13-13 LU. and YBL. 893- 

The Killing of Uala 97 

W. 1585. before her in order ^ that their trace might remain there 
forever and ^ that it might be for a shame and reproach 
to Ulster. 

2 They tarried there three days and three nights till they 
had dug out the earth before them.^ And Bernais {'the 
Gap ') of the * Foray of Medb and the Gap of the * Foray of 
Cualnge is another name for the place ever since, for it is 
through it the drove afterwards passed. ^ There Cuchulain 
killed Cronn and Coemdele and . . . s 

The warriors of the four grand provinces of Erin pitched 
camp and took quarters that night at Belat Aileain (' the 
Island's Crossway'). Belat Aileain was its name up to 
then, but Glenn Tail (' Glen of Shedding ') is henceforth 
its name because of the abundance of curds and of milk 
5 and of new warm milk ^ which the droves of cattle and 
the flocks * of the land of Conalle and Murthemne ^ yielded 
there ' that night ' for the men of Erin. And Liasa Liac 
(' Stone Sheds') is another name for it ^to this day,® and 
it is for this it bears that name, for it is there that the men 
of Erin raised cattle-stalls and byres for their herds and 
droves ^between Cualnge and Conalle.® ^° Botha is still 
another name for it, for the men of Erin erected bothies 
and huts there.^^ 

The four of the five grand provinces of Erin took 
up the march until they reached the Sechair ^in the 
west on the morrow. ^^ Sechair was the name of the 
river hitherto ; Glaiss Gatlaig {' Osier-water ') is its name 
henceforward, ^^^n^ Glaiss Gatlaig rose up against 
them.i^ Now this is the reason it had that name, for it 
was in osiers and ropes that the men of Erin brought 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 895. 2...2 lu. and YBL. 896. 

*•••* H. 2. 17. 3-' LU. and YBL. 898-899. 

«-8 Stowe. ••••« H. 2. 17. '— ' H. 2. 17. 

»•••» H 2. 17. »• •» LU. and YBL. 909. "-" H 2. 17, 

"•••" H 2. 17. 12. ..12 LU. and YBL. 910. 

gS ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1599. their flocks and droves over across it, and the entire host 
let their osiers and ropes drift with the stream after crossing. 
Hence the name, Glaiss Gatlaig. ^Then they slept at 
Dniim Fen^ in Conalle. These then are their stages 
from Cualnge to 4he plain (of Conalle Murthemni) according 
to this version. Other authors 2 of this Work * and other 
books aver that they followed another way on their journey- 
ings from Finnabair to Conalle.^ 

1..-1 LU. and YBL. 912-914. ^...s ybl. 914. 




2 After every one had come with their spoils and they 
were all gathered in Finnabair of Cualnge, Medb spake : 
" Let the camp be divided here/' said Medb ; " the foray 
cannot be caried on by a single road. Let Ailill with half 
his force go by Midluachair. We and Fergus will go by 
Bernas Bo Ulad ('the Pass of the Cattle of Ulster')." 
^' Not fair is the part that has fallen to us of the force," 
said Fergus ; " the cattle cannot be driven over the moun- 
tain without dividing." This then is done. Hence cometh 
Bernas Bo Ulad (' the Pass of the Cattle of Ulster '). 

Then spake Ailill to his charioteer Cuillius : " Find 
out for me to-day Medb and Fergus. I wot not what hath 
led them to keep thus together. I would fain have a token 
from thee." CuiUius went where Medb and Fergus wan- 
toned. The pair dallied behind while the warriors continued 
their march. Cuillius stole near them and they perceived 
not the spy. It happened that Fergus' sword lay close by 
him. Cuillius drew it from its sheath and left the sheath 
empty. Then Cuillius betook himself to Ailill. " Well ? " 
said AiUll. " WeU, then," replied ^ Cuillius ; ^ " thou 
knowest the signification of this token. As thou hast 
thought," continued Cuillius, " it is thus I discovered them, 

^•••^ LU. fo. 65b, in the margin. »— » LU. 930. 

^•••* LU. and YBL. 916-1197, omitting 1079-1091. 


100 Tain Bo Cualnge 

lying together." "It is so, then." Each of them laughs 
at the other. "It is well so," said Ailill ; " she had no 
choice ; to win his help on the T4in she hath done it. Keep 
the sword carefully b^^ thee," said Ailill ; " put it beneath 
thy seat in the chariot and a linen cloth wrapped round 

When Fergus got up to take his sword, " Alas f " cried 
he. " What aileth thee ? " Medb asked. " An ill deed 
have I done Ailill," said he. " Wait thou here till I come 
out of the wood," said Fergus, "and wonder not though 
it be long till I come." It happened that Medb knew not 
of the loss of the sword. Fergus went out taking his 
charioteer's sword with him in his hand, and he fashioned 
a sword from a tree in the wood. Hence is Fid Mor Thruailli 
('Great Scabbard-Wood') in Ulster. 

" Let us hasten after our comrades," said Fergus. The 
forces of all came together in the plain. They raised their 
tents. Fergus was summoned to Ailill for a game of chess. 
When Fergus entered the tent Ailill laughed at him.** 

Cuchulain came so that he was before Ath Cruinn (' the 
Ford of the Cronn '). " O master Laeg," he cried to his 
driver, " here are the hosts for us." " I swear by the 
gods," said the charioteer, " I will do a mighty feat in the 
eyes of chariot-fighters, in quick spurring-on of the slender 
steeds ; with yokes of silver and golden wheels shall they 
be urged on (?) in triumph. Thou shalt ride before heads 
of kings. The steeds I guide will bring victory with their 
bounding." " Take heed, O Laeg," said Cuchulain ; " hold 
the reins for the great triumph of Macha, that the horses 
drag thee not over the mass at the . . . (?) of a woman. 

" Here follows in LU. and YBL. 946-1020, Eg. 1782, a most 
dif&cult passage, rendered more obscure by the incorporation of 
glossarial notes into the body of the text. It is almost incapable 
of translation ; it consists of a dialogue or series of repartees during 
a game of chess, in which Ailill taunts Fergus on the episode just 
narrated and Fergus replies. 

The Harrying of Cualnge loi 

Let us go over the straight plain of these ...(?). I 
call on the waters to help me," cried Cuchulain. " I be- 
seech heaven and earth and the Cronn above all." 

Then the Cronn opposes them," 
Holds them back from Murthemne, 
Till the heroes' * work is done 
On the mount of Ocaind ! * 

Therewith the water rose up till it was in the tops of the 

Mane son of Ailill and Medb marched in advance of 
the rest. Cuchulain slew him on the ford and thirty horse- 
men of his people were drowned. Again Cuchulain laid 
low twice sixteen warriors of theirs near the stream. The 
warrors of Erin pitched their tents near the ford. Lugaid 
son of Nos 1 grandson of Lomarc ^ Allcomach went to 
parley with Cuchulain. Thirty horsemen were with him. 
" Welcome to thee, O Lugaid," cried Cuchulain. " Should 
a flock of birds graze upon the plain of Murthemne, thou 
shalt have a wild goose with half the other. Should fish come 
to the falls or to the bays, thou shalt have a salmon with 
as much again. Thou shalt have the three sprigs, even a 
sprig of cresses, a sprig of laver, and a sprig of sea-grass ; 
there will be a man to take thy place at the ford." " This 
welcome is truly meant," replied Lugaid ; *' the choice of 
people for the youth whom I desire ! " " Splendid are your 
hosts," said Cuchulain. "It will be no misfortune," said 
Lugaid, " for thee to stand up alone before them." *' True 
courage and valour have I," Cuchulain made answer. 
" Lugaid, my master," said Cuchulain, " do the hosts fear 
me ? " "By the god," Lugaid made answer, " I swear that 
no one man of them nor two men dares make water outside 
the camp unless twenty or thirty go with him." " It will 
be something for them," said Cuchulain, "' if I begin to 

" That is, the men of Erin. * That is, Cuchulain and Laeg. 
* See above, page 97. 1— ^ LU. 1041. 

102 Tain Bo Cualnge 

cast from my sling. He will be fit for thee, O Lugaid, this 
companion thou hast in Ulster, ^ if the men oppose me one 
by one.^ Say, then, what wouldst thou? " asked Cuchu- 
lain. *' A truce with my host." " Thou shalt have it, 
provided there be a token therefor. And tell my master 
Fergus that there shall be a token on the host. Tell the 
leeches that there shall be a token on the host, and let 
them swear to preserve my life and let them provide me 
each night with provision." 

Lugaid went from him. It happened that Fergus was 
in the tent with Ailill. Lugaid called him out and reported 
that (proposal of Cuchulain's) to him. Then Ailill was 
heard : " 

" I swear by the god, I cannot," said ^ Fergus, ^ " unless I 
ask the lad. Help me, O Lugaid," said Fergus. " Do thou go 
to him, to see whether Ailill with a division may come to me 
to my company. Take him an ox with salt pork and a keg 
of wine." Thereupon Lugaid goes to Cuchulain and tells 
him that. " 'Tis the same to me whether he go," said 
Cuchulain. Then the two hosts unite. They remain there till 
night, * or until they spend thirty nights there.* Cuchulain 
destroyed thirty of their warriors with his sling. " Your 
joumeyings will be ill-starred," said Fergus (to Medb and 
Ailill) ; " the men of Ulster will come out of their ' Pains ' 
and will grind you down to the earth and the gravel. Evil 
is the battle-corner wherein we are." He proceeds to 
Cul Airthir (' the Eastern Nook '). Cuchulain slays thirty 
of their heroes on Ath Duirn (' Ford of the Fist'). Now 
they could not reach Cul Airthir till night. Cuchulain killed 

^•••1 Literally, ' if there oppose me the strength of each single 

« The sense of this proposal of Ailill's, omitted in the translation 
(LU. 1064-1069 and Eg. 1782), is not clear. 

^•"^ ' Lugaid,' LU. 1069. 

*•••* YBL. 1075; but, 'they would be twenty nights there, as 
other books say,' LU. 

The Harrying of Cualnge 103 

thirty of their men there and they raised their tents in that 
place. In the morning Ailill's charioteer, CuiUius to wit, 
was washing the wheel-bands in the ford. Cuchulain struck 
him with a stone so that he killed him. Hence is Ath 
CuiQne (* Ford of Destruction ') in Cul Airthir.' * 
2—2 See note «— ", page 99. 




W. 1603. The four grand provinces of Erin proceeded till they pitched 
camp and took quarters in Druim En (* Birds* Ridge ') in 
the land of Conalle Murthemni, ^ and they slept there ^ 
that night, ^ as we said before, ^ and Cuchulain held himself 
at Ferta lUergaib (* the Burial-mound on the Slopes ') hard 
by them that night, and he, Cuchulain, shook, brandished 
and flourished his weapons that night. ^ Every night of 
the three nights they were there he made casts from his 
sling at them, from Ochaine nearby, ^ so that one hundred 
warriors of the host perished of fright and fear and dread 
of Cuchulain. * " Not long will our host endure in this 
way with Cuchulain," quoth AililL* Medb called upon 
Fiachu son of Ferfebe of the Ulstermen to go parley with 
Cuchulain, to come to some terms with him. " What 
terms shall be given him ? " asked Fiachu son of Ferfebe. 
*' Not hard to answer," Medb rephed : "He shall be recom- 
pensed ^ for the loss of his lands and estates,^ for whosoever 
has been slain of the Ulstermen, so that it be paid to him 
as the men of Erin adjudge ^ according to the will of 
the Ulstermen and of Fergus and of the nobles of the men 
of Erin who are in this camp and encampment.^ Enter- 
tainment shall be his at all times in Cruachan ; wine and 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1097. 2. ..2 lu. and YBL. 1098. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. iioo-iioi. 
^•••* LU. and YBL. 1100-1102. 
«•••« H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. 


The Proposals 105 

W. 1 61 4. mead shall be poured * out for him. ^ He shall have from *LL. fo. 70 
the plain of Ai the equal of the plain of Murthemne and the 
best chariot that is in Ai and the equipment of twelve 
men. Offer, if it please him more, the plain wherein he 
was reared and thrice seven bondmaids.^ And he shall 
come into my service and Ailill's, for that is more seemly for 
him than to be in the service of the lordling with whom he 
is, 2 even of Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathatch.* 

Accordingly this was the greatest word of scorn and 
insult spoken on the Cow-Raid of Cualnge, to make a 
lordling of the best king of a province in Erin, even of Con- 

Then came Fiachu son of Ferfebe to converse with 
Cuchulain. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "^ Welcome 
thy coming and thine arrival, O Fiachu/' said Cuchulain.* 
** I regard that welcome as truly meant," *said Fiachu.* 
" It is truly meant for thee'* ^ replied Cuchulain^; *' *and 
thou shalt have a night of hospitahty this night." *' Vic- 
tory and a blessing attend thee, O fosterling," replied 
Fiachu. "Not for hospitality am I come, but® to 
parley with thee am I come from Medb, ' and to 
bring thee terms." ' " What hast thou brought with 
thee ? " " Thou shalt be recompensed for whatsoever was 
destroyed of Ulster which shall be paid thee as best the 
men of Erin adjudge. Entertainment shalt thou enjoy in 
Cruachan ; wine and mead shall be poured out for thee 
and thou shalt enter the service of Ailill and Medb, for that 
is more seemly for thee than to be in the service of the 
lordling with whom thou art . " " Nay , of a truth, ' ' answered 
Cuchulain, " I would not sell my mother's brother ** for 
any other king ! " " Further," » continued Fiachu, ^ " that 

1" 1 LU. and YBL. 1103-1105. 2.. .2 h. 2. 17. 

^•••» H. 2. 17. 4.. .4 H. 2. 17. 6-» H. 2. 17. 

«•••« H. 2. 17. '•••' Stowe. « That is, Conchobar. 

8-8 Stowe. 

io6 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1627. thou comest to-morrow to a tryst with Medb and Fergus 
in Glenn Fochaine. 

1 Therewith Fiachu left behind a wish for long life and 
health with Cuchulain.^ 

Accordingly, early on the morrow, Cuchulain set forth 
for Glenn Fochaine. Likewise Medb and Fergus went to 
meet him. And Medb looked narrowly at Cuchulain, and 
her spirit chafed her at him that day, for no bigger than the 
bulk of a stripling did he seem to her. " Is that yonder 
the renowned Cuchulain thou speakest of, O Fergus ? " 
asked Medb, ^" oi whom it is said amongst ye Ulstermen 
that there is not in Erin a warrior for whom he is not a 
match and mighty combat ? " " Not in Erin alone, did 
we say,*' Fergus made answer ; " but there is not in the 
world a warrior for whom he is not a match and mighty 
combat.'' ^ And Medb began to address Fergus and she 
made this lay : — 

Medb : "If that be the noble Hound, 
Of whom ye of Ulster boast. 
What man e'er stout foe hath faced, 
Will fend him from Erin's men ! " 

Fergus : " Howe'er young the Hound thou seest, 
That Murthemne's Plain doth course, 
That man hath not stood on earth 
Whom he'd crush not with his might! " 

Medb : " We will bring this warrior terms ; 
If he slight them, he is mad : 
Half his cows, his women, half. 
He shall change his way of fight ! " 

Fergus : " My wish, that ye'll not o'ercome 

This Hound from proud Murthemne ! 
Deeds he fears not — ^fierce and bright — 
This I know, if it be he ! " 

"Accost Cuchulain, O Fergus," said Medb. " Nay, then,"" 
quoth Fergus, " but do thou accost him thyself, for ye 
are not asunder here in the valley, in Glenn Fochaine.'^ 

1-* Stewe. 2...2 H. 2. 17. 

The Proposals 


h 1653. And Medb began to address Cuchulain and she made a lay, 
^ to which he responded : ^ 

Medb : " Culann's Hound, whom quatrains praise," 
Keep thy staff-sling far from us ; 
Thy fierce, famed fight hath us ruined. 
Hath us broken and confused ! " 

Cuchulain : " Medb of Mur, he, Maga's son, 
No base arrant wight am I. 
While I live I'll never cease 
Cualnge's raid to harass sore ! " 

Medb : "If thou wilt take this from us, 

Valiant chief, thou Cualnge's Hound ; 

Half thy cows, thy women, half. 

Thou shalt have ^ through fear of thee ! " * 

Cuchulain : " As by right of thrusts am I 

Ulster's champion and defence. 
Naught I'll yield till I retrieve 
Cow and woman ta'en from Gael ! " 

Medb : " ^Vhat thou askest is too much. 

After slaughtering our fair troops. 
That we keep but steeds and gauds, 
All because of one sole man ! " 

Cuchulain : " Eocho's daughter, fair, of Fal, 

I'm not good at wars of words ; 
Though a warrior — * fair the cheer — * 
Counsel mine is little worth ! " 

Medb : " Shame thou hast none for what thou sayest, 
O Dechtird's lordly * son ! 
Famous are the terms for thee, 
O thou battling Culann's Hound ! " 

When this lay was finished, Cuchulain accepted none 
of the terms which she had offered. In such wise they 
parted in the valley and withdrew in equal anger on the 
one side and on the other. 

The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin 
pitched camp and took quarters for three days and three 
nights at Druim En (' Birds' Ridge') in Conalle Murthemni, 
but neither huts nor tents did they set up, nor did they 

^•••^ Stowe. " Literally, ' love.' 

^•••' Reading with H. i. 13 and Stowe. 
• Literally, ' richly trooped.' 

*-"^ A cheville. 

io8 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1688. engage in feasts or repasts, nor sang they songs nor carols 
those three nights. And Cuchulain destroyed a hundred 
of their warriors every night ere the bright hour of sunrise 
on the morrow. 
*JJL:Jo. 76b. * " Our hosts will not last long in this fashion," said 
Medb, " if Cuchulain slays a hundred of our warriors every 
night. Wherefore is a proposal not made to him and do 
we not parley with him ? '* " What might the proposal be ? '* 
asked Ailill. " Let the cattle that have milk be given to 
him and the captive women from amongst our booty. 
And he on his side shall check his staff-sling from the men 
of Erin and give leave to the hosts to sleep, ^ even though 
he slay them by day." ^ " Who shall go with that pro- 
posal ? " Ailill asked. " Who," answered Medb, " but 
macRoth the ^ chief ^ runner ! " " Nay, but I will not go," 
said macRoth, "for I am in no way experienced and 
know not where Cuchulain may be, ^ and even though I 
should meet him, I should not know him.^" "Ask Fer- 
gus," quoth Medb; "like enough he knows * where he 
is.* " " Nay, then, I know it not," answered Fergus ; 
"but I trow he is ^in the snow^ between Fochain and 
the sea, taking the wind and the sun after his sleeplessness 
last night, killing and slaughtering the host single handed." 
And so it truly was. ^ Then on that errand to Delga mac- 
Roth set forth, the messenger of Ailill and Medb. He it 
is that circles Erin in one day. There it is that Fergus 
opined that Cuchulain would be, in Delga.^ 

Heavy snow fell that night so that all the ' five '^ prov- 
inces of Erin were a white plane with the snow. And 
Cuchulain doffed the seven-score waxed, boardlike tunics 
which were used to be held under cords and strings next his 
skin, in order that his sense might not be deranged when 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1128. 

2-2 H. 2. 17. 3... 3 H. 2. 17. *•••* H. 2. 17. ^•••« H. 2. 17. 

«-6 LU. and YBL. 1109-1111. '•••' Stowe. 

The Proposals lOg 

1709. the fit of his fury came on him. And the snow melted for 
thirty feet all around him, because of the intensity of the 
warrior's heat and the warmth of Cuchulain's body. And 
the gilla ^ remained a good distance from him for he ^ 
could not endure to remain near him because of the might 
of his rage and the warrior's fury and the heat of his body. 
" A single warrior approacheth, O Cuchulain," cried Laeg 
* to Cuchulain. 2 " What manner of warrior is he ? " asked 
Cuchulain. '* A brown, broad-faced, handsome fellow ; 
3 a yellow head of hair and a linen ornament round it ^ ; 
a splendid, brown, * hooded * cloak, ^ with red ornamenta- 
tion, ^ about him ; a fine, bronze pin in his cloak ; a leathern 
three-striped doublet next his skin ; two gapped shoes 
between his two feet and the groimd ; a white-hazel dog- 
staff in one of his hands ; a single-edged sword with orna- 
ments of walrus-tooth on its hilt in the other. " Good, O 
gilla," quoth Cuchulain, " these be the tokens of a herald. 
One of the heralds of Erin is he to bring me message and 
offer of parley." 

Now was macRoth arrived at the place where Laeg was. 
" ® How now ® ! What is thy title as vassal, O gilla ? " mac- 
Roth asked. * ' Vassal am I to the youth up yonder, ' ' the gilla 
made answer. MacRoth came to the place where Cuchulain 
was. ' Cuchulain was sitting in the snow there up to his 
two hips with nothing about him . . . his mantle.' "^How 
now ^ ! What is thy name as vassal, O warrior ? " asked mac- 
Roth. " Vassal am I to Conchobarson of Fachtna Fathach, 
• son of the High King of this province." * " Hast not some- 
thing, 1° a name ^^ more special than that ? " " Tis enough 
for the nonce," answered Cuchulain. " Haply, thou knowest 
where I might find that famous Cuchulain of whom the men 

1-1 H. 2. 17. • 2...2 LU. and YBL. 1112. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1112. *•••* LU. and YBL. 1113. 

»•••« LU. and YBL. 1114. ••••• H. 2. 17. 

»•••' LU. and YBL. H16-1118. ••••« H. 2. 17. 

••••• H. 2. 17. W..W LU. and YBL. 1120, 

no ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

1729. of Erin clamour now on this foray ? " '' What wouldst thou 
say to him that thou wouldst not to me ? " asked Cuchulain. 
" To parley with him am I come on the part of Ailill and 
Medb, with terms and friendly intercourse for him." " What 
terms hast thou brought with thee for him ? " " The 
milch-kine and the bondwomen of the booty he shall have, 
and for him to hold back his staff-sling from the hosts, 
for not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works every evening 
upon them/' " Even though the one thou seekest were 
really at hand, he would not accept the proposals thou 
askest." "^How so, then," said macRoth^; "for the 
Ulstermen, as amends for their honour and in reprisal 
for injuries and satires and hindrances ^ and for bands 
of troops and marauders, ^ will kill ^ f or meat in the 
winter ^ the milch-cows ye have captured, should they 
happen to have no yeld cattle. And, what is more, they 
will bring their bondwomen to bed to them, and thus will 
grow up a base progeny on the side of the mothers in the 
land of Ulster, * and loath I am to leave after me such a 
disgrace on the men of Ulster.* 

MacRoth went his way back ^ to the camp of the men of 
Erin to where Ailill and Medb and Fergus were.^ " What ! 
Didst thou not find him?" Medb asked. "Verily, «I 
know not, but* I found a surly, angry, hateful, wrathful 
gilla ' in the snow ' betwixt Fochain and the sea. Sooth 
to say, I know not if he were Cuchulain." " Hath he ac- 
cepted these proposals ^ from thee ? " ^ " Nay then, he 
hath not." And macRoth related ^unto them all his 
answer,^ the reason why he did not accept them. " It was 
lie himself with whom thou spakest," said Fergus. 

" Another offer shall be made him," said Medb. " What 
is the offer ? " asked Ailill. " There shall be given to him 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2.. .2 H. 2. 17. 3. ..3 Lu. and YBL. 1135. 
4-* H. 2. 17. »-5 H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. 8-* Stowe. »•••• Stowe. 

The Proposals iii 

1747- the yeld cattle and the noblest of the captive women of the 
booty, and his sling shall be checked from the hosts, for 
not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works on them every 
evening." " Who should go make this covenant ? " ^said 
they.^ ** Who but macRoth ^ the king's envoy," ^ ^said 
every one.^ " Yea, I will go," said macRoth, " because 
this time I know him." 

^ Thereupon * macRoth ^ arose and ^ came to parley 
with Cuchulain. " To parley with thee am I come this 
time ®with other terms,® for I wis it is thou art the 
renowned Cuchulain." " What hast thou brought with 
thee now ? " ' Cuchulain asked. ^ " What is dry of the 
kine and what is noblest of the captives ^ shalt thou get,^ 
and hold thy staff-sling * from the men of Erin and suffer *LL. fo. 71a. 
the men of Erin to go to sleep, for not pleasant is the thunder- 
feat thou workest upon them every evening." ** I accept 
not that offer, because, as amends for their honour, the 
Ulstermen will kill the dry cattle. For the men of Ulster 
are honourable men and they would remain wholly without 
dry kine and milch-kine. They would bring their free 
women ye have captured to the querns and to the kneading- 
troughs and into bondage and ® other ^ serfdom ^^ besides. ^^ 
^1 This would be a disgrace.^ Loath I should be to leave 
after me this shame in Ulster, that slave-girls and bond- 
maids should be made of the daughters of kings and 
princes of Ulster." " Is there any offer at all thou wilt 
accept this time ? " ^2 said macRoth^ " Aye, but there is," 
answered Cuchulain. *' Then wilt thou tell me the offer ? " 
asked macRoth. *' By my word," Cuchulain made answer, 
'* 'tis not I that will tell you." " It is a question, then," 
said macRoth. " If there be among you in the camp," 
said Cuchulain, " one that knows the terms I demand, let 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2.. .2 H. 2. 17. »•••• Stowe. 4-4 H. 2. 17. 
^•••» H. 2. 17. ••••« H. 2. 17. '•••' Stowe. «•••« Stowe. 
«•••" Stowe. "•••" Stowe. "•••" H. 2. 17. "-12 H. 2. 17. 

112 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

1766. him inform you, ^ and I will abide thereby." ^ " And if 
there be not ? " ^said macRoth. " If there be not," said 
Cuchulain,^ *' let no one come near me any more with offers 
or with friendly intercourse ^ or concerning aught other 
injunction,^ for, whosoever may come, it will be the term 
of his life ! " 

MacRoth came back *to the camp and station of the 
men of Erin, to where Ailill, Medb, and Fergus were,* 
and Medb asked his tidings. " Didst thou find him ? " Medb 
asked. " In truth, I found him," macRoth replied. 
"Hath he accepted ^the terms?"' "He hath not 
accepted," replied macRoth. " ^ How so ; " said Ailill,* 
" is there an offer he will accept ? " " There is one, he 
said," ' answered macRoth.' " Hath he made known to 
thee this offer ? ". " This is his word," said macRoth, 
" that he himself would not disclose it to ye." " Tis a 
question, then," said Medb. " But " (macRoth con-- 
tinned), " should there be one in our midst that knows his 
terms, that one would tell it to me." ** And if there be not," 
^saidAihll. "And if there be not,"^ (answered macRoth), 
"let no one go seek him any more. But, there is one 
thing I promise ® thee," ^ said macRoth ; " even though the 
kingdom of Erin were ^° given me ^° for it, I for one would 
not go ^ on these same legs to that place ^ to parley with him 
12 again." 12 is " Belike, Fergus knows," quoth There- 
with Medb looked at Fergus. " What are the terms yonder 
man demands, O Fergus ? " Medb asked. 1*" I know what 
the man meant to disclose.^* I see no advantage at all for 
ye in the terms he demands," Fergus replied, "^'g^^-is 
what are those terms?" asked Medb. "^^Not difficult 
to say," repUed Fergus.^® ''That a single champion of 

1-1 Stowe. 2. ..2 H. 2. 17. 3...3 stowe. 

4-4 H. 2. 17. 5...5 H. 2. 17. 6...6 H. 2. 17. 

'•••' Stowe and H. 2. 17. ^-s H. 2. 17. »•••* Stowe. 

10.. .10 stowe. "-11 Stowe. 12. ..12 stowe. "•••" H. 2. 17. 
14...14 Lu. and YBL. 1138. "...15 h. 2. 17. "•••" H. 2. 17, 

The Proposals 115 

1782. the men of Erin ^ be sent ^ to fight 2 and contend ^ with 
him every day. The while he slayeth that man, the army 
will be permitted to continue its march. Then, when he 
will have slain that man, another warrior shall be sent to 
meet him on the ford. Either that, or the men of Erin 
shall halt and camp there till sunrise's bright hour in the 
morning. ^ And, by the ford whereon his single-handed 
battle and fight takes place, the cattle shall not be taken 
by day or by night, to see if there come to him help from 
the men of Ulster. And I wonder,'* continued Fergus, 
" how long it will be till they come out of their * Pains.' * 
* Whatever Ulstermen are injured or wounded nearby him, 
your leeches shall heal them and ye shall not be paid for 
the price of their healing. Whatever daughter of kings 
or of princes of the men of Erin shall love him, ye shall 
bring her to him together with her purchase and bride-price. * 
And further, Cuchulain's food and clothing shall be pro- 
vided by you, ^ so long as he will be ^ on this expedition." 
«"Good, O Fergus," « asked Ailill," '" will he abate aught 
of these terms ? " "In sooth, will he," replied Fergus ; 
" namely, he will not exact to be fed and clothed by you, 
but of himself will provide food and clothing." ' 

" By our conscience," said Ailill, " this is a grievous pro- 
posal." " What he asks is good," replied Medb; " and he 
shall obtain those terms, for we deem it easier to bear that 
he should have one of our warriors every day than a hundred 
every night." " Who will go and make known those terms 
to Cuchulain ? " " Who, then, but Fergus ? " repHed 
Medb. "»Come now, O Fergus," said Medb; "take upon 
thee to fulfil and make good those terms to him."^ 
" Nevermore ! " said Fergus. " Why not ? " asked Ailill. 
» " I fear ye will not make true and fulfil them for 

1—1 Stowe. 2...2 H. 2. 17. s—3 LU. and YBL. 1140-1143. 
*•••* H. 2. 17. ^-^ Stowe and H. 2. 17. «-« H. 2. 17. 

« 'Medb/ H. 2. 17. '-^ H. 2.17. '-s H. 2. 17 »•••» H. 2. 17, 

114 T^^ ^^ Cualnge 

W. 1792. me." " They will truly be fulfilled," said Medb.^ (Then 
said Fergus :) " Bonds and covenants, pledges and bail 
shall be given for abiding by those terms and for their ful- 
filment towards Cuchulain." " I abide by it," said Medb, 
and she fast bound Fergus to them in like manner 



1798. Fergus' horses were brought and his chariot was hitched 
2 and Fergus set forth on that errand. ^ And two horses 
were brought for Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn, a 
soft youth of the people of Medb and of AiUU. ^ ;^ow 
Etarcumul followed Fergus. ^ "Whither goest thou?" 
Fergus demanded. " We go with thee/' Etarcumul made 
answer. ^ " And why goest thou with me ? " asked Fergus.* 
" To behold the form and appearance of Cuchulain, and to 
gaze upon him, ^ for he is unknown to me." ^ " Wilt thou do 
my bidding," said Fergus, " thou wilt in no wise go thither." 
" Why shall I not, pray ? " * " I would not have thee go," 
said Fergus ; " and it is not out of hatred of thee, only I 
should be loath to have combat between thee and Cuchu- 
lain.* Thy light-heart edness, 'thy haughtiness and thy 
pride' and thine overweeningness (I know), but (I also 
know) the fierceness and valour and hostility, the ^ violence 
and vehemence ^ of the youth against whom thou goest, 
* even Cuchulain.® And methinks ye will have contention 
before ye part. ^^ No good will come from your meeting." ^^ 
" Art thou not able to come between us ^^to protect me ? " ^^ 

1--1 LU. fo. 68a, in the margin. 2. ..2 lu. and YBL. 1145. 

3. -3 LU. and YBL. 1145. *•••* H. 2. 17. "^-s H. 2. 17. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 1147-1149. '•••' LU. and YBL. 1149. 

^-s Stowe. »•••» LU. and YBL. 1150. 

"•••^o LU. and YBL. 1150. ii-" H. 2. 17. 


ii6 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1806. ** I am, to be sure/' Fergus answered, *' provided thou thy- 
self seek not the combat ^ and treat not what he says with 
contempt." 1 "I will not seek it," ^ sai(j Etarcumul,^ 
" till the very day of doom ! " 

Then they went their ways ^in two chariots to Delga,^ 
to come up to Cuchulain where Cuchulain was between 
Fochain and the sea. ^ There it is that he was that day, 
with his back to the pillar-stone at Crich Rois,* playing 
draughts with Laeg, ^ to wit, his charioteer. ^ ^ The back 
of his head was turned towards them that approached and 
Laeg faced them.^ And not a 'living' thing entered 
the ^ entire ^ plain without Laeg perceiving it and, not- 
withstanding, he continued to win every other game of 
draughts from Cuchulain. " A lone warrior cometh to- 
wards us ^over the plain,* ^^my master ^^ Cucuc," 
spake Laeg. " What manner of warrior ? " queried 
Cuchulain. ^^ " A fine, large chariot is there," said he.^^ 

12 " But what sort of chariot ? " 12 " \s large as one 
of the chief mountains that are highest on a great plain 

*LL. fo. 71b. appears to me * the chariot that is under the warrior ; 

13 and I would liken to the battlements of one of the vast, 
royal seats of the province the chariot that is in the trap- 
pings of those horses ; ^^ as large as one of the noble trees 
on a main fort's green meseems the curly, tressed, fair- 
yellow, all-golden hair hanging loose around the man's 
head ; a purple mantle fringed with thread of gold ^^ wrap- 
ped 1* around him ; a golden, ornamented brooch in the 
mantle ^^ over his breast ; ^^ ^^a bright-shining, hooded shirt, 
with red embroidery of red gold trussed up on his white 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1152. 

2--2 Stowe and H. 2. 17. 

»-3 LU. and YBL. 1153. *•••* H. 2. 17. 

"•••'^ LL., in the margin. «•••« LU. and YBL. 1154-1155. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. »•••" H. 2. 17. 

10.. .10 H. 2. 17. 11-11 H. 2. 17. 12. ..12 H. 2.17. 13-13 H.2.17. 

14. ..14 H. 2. 17. 15-15 Stowe. i«-" H. 2. 17. 

The Violent Death of Etarcumul 117 

V. 1819. skin ; ^^ a broad and grey-shafted lance, ^ perforated from 
mimasc " to ' horn,' ^ flaming red in his hand ; over him, 
a bossed, plaited shield, ^ curved, with an engraved edge of 
silvered bronze, ^ ^-yyith applied ornaments of red gold 
thereon, 3 and a boss of red gold ; a lengthy sword, as long 
as the oar * of a huge currach ^ on a wild, stormy night, ^ 
* resting on the two thighs ® of the great haughty warrior 
that is within the chariot.*" 

" Holla ! Welcome the coming of this guest to us ! " 
cried Cuchulain. " We know the man ; it is my master 
Fergus that cometh hither. ' Empty is the great paddle 
that my master Fergus carries," said Cuchulain ; "for 
there is no sword in its sheath but a sword of wood. For 
I have heard," Cuchulain continued, " that AiUU got a 
chance at him and Medb as they lay, and he took away 
Fergus' sword from him and gave it to his charioteer to 
take care of, and the sword of wood was put into its sheath." '' 

" Yet another single chariot-fighter I see coming towards 
us. With fulness of skill and beauty and splendour his 
horses speed." ^ A young, tender gilla in armour is in the 
chariot.® " " One of the youths of the men of Erin is he, O 
my master Laeg," responded Cuchulain. " To scan my 
appearance and form is that man come, for I am renowned 
amongst them in the midst of their camp, ^ and they know 
me not at all." ^ 

Fergus came up ^^ to where Cuchulain was ^^ and he 
sprang from the chariot, and Cuchulain bade him ^ a hearty " 
welcome. ^^ " Welcome to thine arrival and thy coming, 
O my master Fergus ! " cried Cuchulain ; " and a night's 

- Some part of the spear. i— ^ LU. and YBL. 1159. 

2-2 LU. and YBL. 1158. 3. ..3 h. 2. 17. 

4... 4 Following Windisch's emendation of the text. 
«-5 H. 2. 17. «•••« LU. and YBL. 1160. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 1160-1165. s-s H. 2. 17. 

••••» H. 2. 17. i°-i» Stowe. "•••" H. 2. 17. 

12...12 H. 2. 17. 

ii8 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1 83 1, lodging shall thou have here this night." ^^ ^ " Thy 
hospitality and eke thy welcome ^ I take for true," 
Fergus responded. " Verily, it is truly meant for thee," 
said Cuchulain ; "for comes there a brace of birds into 
the plain, thou shalt have a wild goose with half the other. 
If fish rise to the river-mouths, ^ to the stones or water- 
falls,2 thou shalt have a salmon with as much again. 
Thou shalt have a handful of watercress and a handful 
of sea-grass and a handful of laver ^ and a drink from 
the sand 3 * afterwards.* If thou hast a fight or combat 
5 with warrior before thee, ^ I myself will go in thy stead 
to the ford. ^ I will bear the fight that thou mayest 
return safe to the camp and the fort of the men of Erin 
on the morrow,^ ^ and thou shalt lie on a litter of fresh 
rushes till heavy sleep and slumber come on thee,'' ^and 
I will watch and guard thee as long as thou sleepest." ^ 
" Well, then, ® mayest thou have victory and blessing, O 
fosterling," said Fergus.^ " We know of what sort is thy 
hospitality on this occasion, on the Cow-spoil of Cualnge. 
1° But, not to claim that are we come, ^^ ^^a night's hospital- 
ity of thee, but to fulfil and make good the terms thou 
askest.^^ As for this compact which thou hast asked of 
the men of Erin, single-handed combat with one man, 
thou shalt have it. It is for that I am come, to bind 
thee thereto, and do thou take it upon thee." " I pledge 
myself truly," said Cuchulain, ^^ provided fair play and 
single-handed combat be granted to me.^^ " And O, my 
master Fergus, 1* do thou take upon thee the pact," said 
Cuchulain. " I bind myself to it," replied Fergus. 1* 

^•••^ H. 2. 17, and, similarly, Stowe. 

2-2 H. 2. 17. 3.. .3 Lu. and YBL. 1170 and H. 2, 17. 

*-4 H. 2. 17. 5-5 H. 2. 17. «•"« H. 2. 17. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. 8. ..8 Reading with Stowe. 

»•••» H. 2. 17. i°"-i» Stowe. "-^^ H. 2. 17. 

13...13 H. 2. 17. "•••" H. 2. 17. 

The Violent Death of Etarcumul 119 

N. 1 84 1. And no longer than that did he remain in parley, lest the 
men of Erin should say they were betrayed or deserted 
by Fergus for his disciple. Fergus' two horses were 
brought and his chariot was harnessed and he went 

Etarcumul tarried behind gazing for a long time at 
Cuchulain. "At what starest thou, gilla ? " asked 
Cuchulain. " I look at thee," said Etarcumul. ** In 
truth then, thou hast not far to look," said Cuchulain. 
1 " There is no need of straining thine eye for that ; not 
far from thee within sight, thine eye seeth what is not 
smaller than I nor bigger. ^ If thou but knewest how 
angered is the little creature thou regardest, myself, to 
wit ! And how then do I appear- unto thee gazing upon 
me ? " " Thou pleasest me as thou art ; a comely, 
2 shapely, 2 wonderful, beautiful youth thou art, with 
brilliant, striking, various feats. Yet as for rating thee 
where goodly warriors are or forward youths or heroes of 
bravery or sledges of destruction, we count thee not nor 
consider thee at all. ^ j know not why thou shouldst be 
feared by any one. I behold nothing of terror or tearfulness 
or of the overpowering of a host in thee. So, a comely 
youth with arms of wood and with showy feats is all thou 
art ! " 3 4 " Though thou re vilest me, " * said Cuchulain, " it is a 
surety for thee that thou camest from the camp under the 
protection of Fergus, ^ as thou well knowest.^ For the rest, 
I swear by my gods whom I worship, were it not for the 
honour of Fergus, it would be only bits of thy bones and 
shreds of thy limbs, ^ thy reins drawn and thy quarters 
scattered ^ that would be brought back to the camp ' behind 
thy horses and chariot ! " ' " But threaten me no longer 

^•••1 Reading with H. 2. 17. ^...a stowe. 

'•••3 LU. and YBL. 1178-1180. 4-4 LU. and YBL. 1181. 

»-6 Stowe ; LL. reads ' I know.' 6-« LU. and YBL. 1182-1183. 
'•••' H. 2. 17. 

120 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1858. in this wise, ^Cuchulain^ ! " 2 cried Etarcumul ; ^ " for the 
3 wonderful ^ terms thou didst exact of the men of Erin, 
*that fair play and* combat with one man ^ should be 
granted thee,^ none other of the men of Erin but mine 
own self will come to-morrow ^ at morn's early hour on 
the ford ^ to attack thee.'' 

" Come out, then," 'said Cuchulain,' " and howso early 
thou comest, thou wilt find me here. I will not fly before 
thee, s Before no man have I put foot in flight till now 
on the Plunder of the Kine of Cualnge and neither will I 
fly before thee ! " « 

Etarcumul returned ^from Methe and Cethe,^ and 
began to talk with his driver. " I must needs fight with 
Cuchulain to-morrow, gilla," said Etarcumul,^'' "for I gave 
my word to go." i<^ " 'Tis true, thou didst," quoth the chariot- 
*LL. fo. 72a. ^^^•* " Howbeit, I know not wilt thou fulfil it." " But 
what is better ^ for us,^^ to fulfil it to-morrow or forthwith to- 
night? " "To our thinking," said the gilla, " albeit no victory 
is to be won by fighting to-morrow, there is still less to be 
gained by fighting to-night, for thy combat ^^ and hurt ^^ is 
the nearer." " ^^gg ^^^^^ g^s i^ may," said he^*; "turn the 
^* horses and^* chariot back again ^^ from the hill ^^ for us, 
gilla, ^® till we go to the ford of combat ,1^ for I swear by the 
gods whom I worship, I will not return ^^ to the camp ^^ till 
the end of life and time, till I bring with me the head of 
that young wildling, ^^ even ^^ the head of Cuchulain, for a 
trophy ! " 

The charioteer wheeled the chariot again towards the 

i-» H. 2. 17. 2...2 stowe. 3-3 LU. and YBL. 1185. 

4-* H. 2. 17. 6... 5 H. 2. 17. 6.. .6 H. 2. 17. 

'•••' H. 2. 17. 8.-8 H. 2. 17. 

••••» LU. and YBL. 1188. io-i» Stowe. 

11. ..11 H. 2. 17. 12...12 H. 2. 17. 

13...13 H. 2. 17. "-14 H. 2. 17. 

15...16 LU. and YBL. 1190. i«-i6 H. 2. 17. 

"•••" Stowe. 18-18 Stowe. 

The Violent Death of Etarcumul 121 

W. 1871. ford. They brought the leff* board to face the pair in a 
line with the ford. Laeg marked ^ this and he cried ^ 
2 to Cuchulain^: ("Wist thou) the last chariot-fighter 
that was here a while ago, O Cucuc ? " " What of him ? " 
asked Cuchulain. " He has brought his left board towards 
us in the direction of the ford." " It is Etarcumul, O gilla, 
who seeks me in combat. ^ I owe no refusal,^ but far 
from pleased am I thereat * that he should come and seek 
combat of me. And unwelcome is his coming,* because 
of the honour of my foster-father ^ Fergus ^ under whom 
he came forth from the camp ^of the men of Erin.^ But 
not that I would protect him do I thus. Fetch me my 
arms, gilla. to the ford. ''Bring me my horse and my 
chariot after me.' I deem it no honour for myself if 
^the fellow® reaches the ford before me." And straight- 
way Cuchulain betook himself to the ford, and he bared 
his sword over his fair, well-knit spalls and he was ready 
on the ford to await Etarcumul. 

Then, too, came Etarcumul. " What seekest thou, 
gilla ? " demanded Cuchulain. " Battle with thee I seek," 
replied Etarcumul. " Hadst thou been advised by me," 
said Cuchulain, "thou wouldst never have come. ^I 
do not desire what thou demandest of me.^ ^° I have no 
thought of fighting or contending with thee, Etarcumul. ^<* 
Because of the honour of Fergus under whom thou 
camest out of the camp ^^ and station of the men of Erin,^^ 
and not because I would spare thee, do I behave thus." 
^^ " Thou hast no choice but to fight," replied Etarcumul. ^2 
Thereupon Cuchulain gave him a long-blow whereby 

« A sign of hostility and an insult. 

1-1 Stowe. 2. ..2 LU. and YBL. 1191. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 1192. «-4 Stowe. 

»•••'» H. 2. 17. «-6 H. 2. 17. '•••' H. 2. 17. 

••••« H. 2. 17. I 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1194-1195. 10-10 H. 2. 17. "-" H. 2 17. 
12-12 LU. and YBL. 1195. 

122 •Tain Bo Cualnge 

he cut away the sod that was under the soles of his 
feet, so that he was stretched out hke a sack on his 
back, and ^ his hmbs in the air ^ and the sod on his belly. 
Had Cuchulain wished it it is two pieces he might have 
made of him. ^ " jjold, fellow. ^ Off with thee now, for 
I have given thee warning. ^ It mislikes me to cleanse 
my hands in thee. I would have cloven thee into many 
parts long since but for Fergus." ^ "I will not go. We 
will fight on," said Etarcumul. Cuchulain dealt him a 
well- aimed edge-stroke. * With the edge of his sword * 
he sheared the hair from him from poll to forehead, from 
one ear to the other, as if it were with a light, keen razor 
he had been shorn. ^ Not a scratch of his skin gave blood.^ 
^ " Hold, fellow.^ Get thee home now," said Cuchulain, 
"for a laughing-stock I have made of thee." " I go not," 
'rejoined Etarcumul."^ "We will fight to the end, till I 
take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee, or till 
thou takest my head and my spoils and boastest over me ! " 
" So let it be, what thou saidst last, that it shall be. I 
will take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee ! " 
^ When now the churl became troublesome and persistent,® 
Cuchulain ^ sprang from the ground, so that he alighted on 
the edge of Etarcumul's shield, and he ^ dealt him a cleaving- 
blow on the crown of the head, so that it drove to his 
navel. He dealt him a second crosswise stroke, so that at 
the one time the three portions of his body came to the 
ground. Thus fell Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn. 

^^ Then Etarcumul's charioteer went his way after Fergus,^** 
and Fergus knew not that the combat had been. For 
thus was his wont : ^^ From the day Fergus took warrior's 
arms in hand," he never for aught looked back, whether at 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 H. 2. 17. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 1197-1199. 4. ..4 lxJ. and YBL. 1204. 

5.. .6 H. 2. 17. 6--« H. 2. 17. 

'•••' Stowe and H. 2. 17. ^-^ LU. and YBL. 1206-1207. 

»•••» H. 2. 17. 10-10 H. 2. 17. 11-11 H. 2. 17. 

The Violent Death of Etarcumul 123 

W. 1904. sitting or at rising or when travelling or walking, in battle 
or fight or combat, lest some one might say it was out of 
fear he looked back, but ever he looked at the thing that 
was before and beside him. ^ Fergus saw the chariot go 
past him and a single man in it.^ ^ ^^^ when ^ Etarcumul's 
squire came up abreast of Fergus, Fergus asked, " But, 
where is thy lord, gilla ? " "He fell a while since at the 
ford by the hand of Cuchulain," the gilla made answer. 
" That indeed was not fair ! " exclaimed Fergus, " for that 
elf-like sprite to wrong me in him that came under my safe- 
guard 3 and protection ^ * from the camp and fort of the 
men of Erin * Turn the chariot for us, gilla," cried Fergus, 
" that we may go to ^ the ford of fight and combat ^ for 
a parley with Cuchulain." 

Thereupon the driver wheeled the chariot. They fared 
thither towards the ford. ^ Fergus turned to rebuke 
Cuchulain.^ " How darest thou offend me, thou wild, 
' perverse, little ' elf-man," cried Fergus, " in him that 
came under my safeguard and protection ? ^ Thou think- 
est my club short." ^ * ^ " Be not wroth with me, my *ll. fo. 72 
master Fergus," said Cuchulain.^ " After the nurture 
and care thou didst bestow on me ^^and the Ulstermen 
bestowed and Conchobar^® tell me, which wouldst thou 
hold better, ^^for the Ulstermen to be conquered with- 
out anyone to punish them but me alone and ^^ for him 
to triumph and boast over me, or for me to triumph and 
boast over him ? And yet more, ^^ of his own f aiilt he 
fell. ^2 Ask his own gilla which of us was in fault in 
respect of the other ; ^^ it was none other but he.^^ " 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1208. 2...2 h. 2. 17. 3... 3 h. 2. 17. 

4-4 H. 2. 17. s-5 H. 2. 17. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 1209. '-^ H. 2. 17. 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 12 10. Probably a proverbial expression. 
»•••» LU. and YBL. 1210. "•••" H. 2. 17. 
"•••" H. 2. 17. 12. ..12 H. 2. 17. 13...13 H. 2. 17. 

• Lines 1212-1216 LU. and YBL. (Edition of Strachan and 
O'Keeffe) are omitted in the translation. 

124 Tain Bo Cualnge 

^ Reproach me not, O Fergus my master." He bent 
down so that Fergus' chariot went past him thrice. 
" Ask his charioteer, is it I that have caused it ? " " Not 
thou indeed," answered his charioteer. " He said," Cuchu- 
lain went on, " he would not go till either he took my head 
or he left me his own." ^ ^ Xhen Etarcumul's gilla related 
to Fergus how it all befel. When Fergus heard that, what 
he said was : ^ " Liefer to me what thou hast done, 
3 O fosterling," said Fergus, " that Etarcumul is slain, and^ a 
blessing on the hand that smote him, * for it is he that was 
overweening." * 

So then they bound two spancels about the ankle-joints 
of Etarcumul's feet and he was dragged along behind his 
horses and chariot. At every rock that was rough for him, 
his lungs and his liver were left on the stones and the rugged 
places. At every place that was smooth for him, his skil- 
fully severed limbs came together again round the horses. 
In this wise he was dragged through the camp to the door 
of the tent of Ailill and Medb : *' There's your young war- 
rior for you," cried Fergus, " for ' Every restoration to- 
gether with its restitution ' is what the law saith." " Medb 
came forth to the door of her tent and she raised her ^ quick, 
splitting, 5 loud voice ^ of a warrior. ^ Quoth Medb : " Truly, 
methought that great was the heat and the wrath of this 
young hound ' on leaving us awhile since ' at the beginning 
of the day as he. went from the camp. ^ It is no fortune 
for a tender youth that falls on thee now.^ We had thought 
that the honour under which he went, even the honour of 
Fergus, was not the honour of a dastard ! " " What hath 
crazed the virago and wench? " cried Fergus. "Good lack, 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1216-1220. 2... 2 stowe. 

3-8 H. 2. 17. 4-4 LU. and YBL. 1222. 

• A law maxim. Since Etarcumul had broken his promise not to 
fight, Fergus deems himself absolved from the spirit of his engage- 
ment to bring back Etaircumul but fulfils the letter of it. 

fi-5 H. 2. 17. 6-« Stowe. 

'-' H. 2. 17. »-« H. 2. 17. 

The Violent Death of Etarcumul 125 

W. 1935- is it fitting for the mongrel to seek the Hound of battle 
whom ^ the warriors and champions ^ of four of the five 
grand provinces of Erin dare not approach nor withstand ? 
What, I myself was glad to escape whole from him ! " 

2 Etarcumul's grave was then dug and his tombstone 
erected ; his name was written in ogam and they raised the 
keen over him. Cuchulain shot not from his sling at them 
that night ^ ^ and the women and maidens were brought 
over to him and half the cattle, and they brought provision 
to him by day.^ In this manner fell Etarcumul and such 
was the combat of Etarcumul with Cuchulain. 

1-1 H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 Lu. and YBL. 1230-1232. 

3---3 LU. fo. 69, between the columns. 



^ Then the men of Erin held counsel who would be fit to 
fight and contend with Cuchulain and drive him off from the 
men of Erin.^ ^ " What man have ye to face Cuchulain 
to-morrow ? " asked Lugaid. ** They will give him to thee 
to-morrow," answered Mane son of Ailill. " We find no 
one to meet him/' quoth Medb ; "let us have a truce with 
him then till a man be found to oppose him/' This they 
obtain. " Whither will ye turn/' asked Ailill, " to find 
the man to oppose Cuchulain ? " " There is not in Erin," 
Medb answered, " one that could be got to meet him unless 
Curoi macDare come, or Nathcrantail the warrior/' A 
man of Curoi's people was in the tent. " Curoi will not 
come," said he ; "he weens enough of his people have 
come ! " " Let a message be sent then for Nathcrantail" ^ 
Then arose a huge warrior of Medb's people, Nathcrantail 
by name. * Mane Andoe (' the Unslow ') goes to him. They 
tell him their message. " Come with us for the sake of the 
honour of Connacht." " I will not go," said he, " unless 
they give Finnabair to me." Afterwards he goes with 
them. They bring his armour in a car from the east of 
Connacht and place it in the camp.* ^ Then was Nathcran- 
tail called into the tent of Ailill and Medb.^ « " Where- 

^•••^ Stowe, and LU. fo. 69a, in the margin. 
2---2 Stowe, and, similarly, H. 2. 17. 
3"-3 LU. and YBL. 1233-1242 and Eg. 1782. 
*■"* LU. and YBL. 1 242-1 246. 
5-5 H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. 


The Slaying of Nathcrantail 127 

fore am I summoned to ye ? " Nathcrantail asked. " It 
would please us well," Medb replied, " werest thou to fight 
and contend with Cuchulain on the ford and ward him off 
from us at the morning hour early on the morrow.^ ^Thou 
shalt have Finnabair," said Medb, " for going to fight yon- 
der man." "I will do it," said he.^ ^He engaged to 
undertake the battle and combat and that night be made 
ready, and early on the morrow Nathcrantail arose for 
the battle and combat and he took his warlike implements 
with him to the fight, and though early he arose, Cuchulain 
arose still earlier. ^ 3 That night Lugaid came to Cuchulain. 
" Nathcrantail comes to meet thee to-morrow. Alas for 
thee, thou wilt not withstand him." " That matters not," 
Cuchulain made answer. ^^ 

* On the morrow Nathcrantail went forth from the camp * 
and he came to attack Cuchulain. He did not deign to 
bring along arms but thrice nine spits of holly after being 
sharpened, burnt and hardened in fire. And there before 
him on the pond was Cuchulain ^ a-fowling and his chariot 
hard by him,^ *and there was no shelter whatever. ® And 
when Nathcrantail perceived Cuchulain ^ he ' straightway ' 
cast a dart at Cuchulain. Cuchulain sprang ^ from the 
middle of the ground ® till he came on the tip of the dart. 
^ And he performed a feat on the point of the dart and it 
hindered him not from catching the birds. ^ And again 
Nathcrantail threw a second dart. Nathcrantail threw a 
third dart and Cuchulain sprang on the point of the second 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1246-1247. 2. ..2 h. 2. 17. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 1248-1250. 

" Here follows one line (1251 in LU., edition of Strachan and 
O'KeejSe, and almost similarly in YBL.) which seems to refer to 
some saying of Cuchulain 's about Nathcrantail which we cannot 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 1253. ^...s lU. and YBL. 1255. 
^ Here follow lines 1945-1946, edition of Windisch, which are 
unintelligible and have been omitted in the translation. 

« •« H. 2. 17. '•••' H. 2. 17. «•••« H. 2. 17. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1256-1257. 

128 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 1951. dart and so on till he was on the point of the last dart. 
It was then, ^when Nathcrantail threw the ninth dart,^ 
that the flock of birds ^ which Cuchulain pursued ^ on the 
plain 3 flew away from Cuchulain. ^ Cuchulain chased 
them even as any bird * of the air.* ^ He hopped on the 
points of the darts like a bird from each dart to the next, 
pursuing the birds ^ that they might not escape him but 
that they might leave behind a portion of food for the 
night. For this is what sustained and served Cuchulain, 
fish and fowl and game on the Cualnge Cow-spoil. Some- 
thing more remains to be told : Nathcrantail deemed full 
surely that Cuchulain went from him in rout of defeat 
and flight. And he went his way till he came to the door 
of the tent of Ailill and Medb and he lifted up his loud 
voice ^ of a warrior ^ : " That famous Cuchulain that ye 
so talk of ran and fled in defeat ^ before me when he came 
to me ' in the morning." " We knew," spake Medb, " it 
would be even so when able warriors and goodly youths 
met him, that this beardless imp would not hold out ; for 
when a mighty warrior, ^ Nathcrantail to wit,^ came upon 
him, he withstood him not but before him he ran away ! " 
And Fergus heard that, and Fergus ^ and the Ulstermen ^ 
were sore angered that any one should boast that Cuchu- 
lain had fled. And Fergus addressed himself to Fiachu, 
Feraba's son, that he should go to rebuke Cuchulain. " And 
*LL. fo. 73a. tell * him it is an honour for him to oppose the hosts for 
as long or as short a space as he does deeds of valour upon 
them, but that it were fitter for him to hide himself than 
to fly before any one of their warriors, ^° forasmuch as the 
dishonour would be not greater for him than for the rest of 
Ulster." 10 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1258. 2. ..2 stowe. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 1258. 4-4 Stowe. 

6-5 LU. and YBL. 1259-1260. 6...6 stowe. '--^ Stowe. 

8" -8 Stowe. »•••» LU. 1264. 

10. ..10 Ly. and YBL. 1268. 

The Slaying of Nathcrantail 129 

V. 1969. Thereupon Fiachu went to address Cuchulain. . Cuchu- 
lain bade him welcome. " I trow that welcome to be truly 
meant, but it is for counsel with thee I am come from thy 
fosterer Fergus. And he has said, * It would be a glory 
for thee to oppose the hosts for as long or as short a space 
as thou doest valiantly ^ with them ; ^ but it would be 
fitter for thee to hide thyself than to fly before any one of 
their warriors \' " " How now, who makes that boast 
among ye ? " Cuchiilain asked. " Nathcrantail, of a 
surety," Fiachu answered. " How may this be ? Dost 
not know, thou and Fergus and the nobles of Ulster, that 
I slay no charioteers nor heralds nor unarmed people ? 
And he bore no arms but a spit of wood. And I would 
not slay Nathcrantail until he had arms. And do thou teU 
him, let him come here early in the morning, ^ till he is be- 
tween Ochaine and the sea, and however early he comes, 
he will find me here ^ and I will not fly before him 1 " 

^ Fiachu went back to the camp ^ * and to the station 
of the men of Erin, and he bound Nathcrantail to go to 
the ford of combat on the morrow. They bided there that 
night,* and it seemed long to Nathcrantail till day with its 
light came for him to attack Cuchulain. He set out early 
on the morrow to attack Cuchulain. Cuchulain arose early 
^ and came to his place of meeting ^ and his wrath bided 
with him on that day. And ^ after his night's vigil,® with 
an angry cast he threw his cloak around him, so that it 
passed over the pillar-stone ' near by, the size of himself,' 
and snapped the pillar-stone off from the ground between 
himself and his cloak. And he was aware of naught be- 
cause of the measure of anger that had come on and raged 
in him. Then, too, came Nathcrantail. ^ His arms were 
brought with him on a wagon,^ and he spake, " Where is 

1-1 Stowe. 2. ..2 Lu and YBL. 1273-1275. '-^ Stowe. 
^•••4 Egerton 93 begins here. ^---^ LU. and YBL. 1276. 
«•••« LU. and YBL. 1277. '•••' LU. and YBL. 1277-1278. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1279. 


130 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

1987- this Cuchulain ? " shouted Nathcrantail. " Why, over 
yonder ^ near the pillar-stone before thee," ^ answered 
Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar. " Not such was the 
shape wherein he appeared to me yesterday,'* said Nath- 
crantail. " Repel yon warrior," quoth Cormac, " and it 
will be the same for thee as if thou repellest Cuchulain ! " 
2 " Art thou Cuchulain ? " " And if I am ? " answered 
Cuchulain. " If thou be truly he," said Nathcrantail, " I 
would not bring a lambkin's head to the camp. I will not 
take thy head, the head of a beardless boy." "It is not 
I at all," said Cuchulain ; "go find him around the hill ! " 
Cuchulain hastens to Laeg. " Rub a false beard on me ; 
I cannot get the warrior to fight with me beardless." This 
was done for him. He goes to meet Nathcrantail on the hill. 
" Methinks that more fitting. Now fight with me 
fairly," said Nathcrantail. " Thou shalt have thy wish, 
if only we know it," Cuchulain made answer. " I will 
make a cast at thee," said Nathcrantail, " and thou shalt 
not avoid it." "I will not avoid it except on high," 
said Cuchulain. Nathcrantail makes a cast at him. 
Cuchulain springs on high before it. " Tis ill of thee 
to avoid the cast," cried Nathcrantail. " Avoid then my 
cast on high ! " quoth Cuchulain. Cuchulain lets the 
spear fly at him and it went on high, so that from above 
it alighted on Nathcrantail's crown and through him it 
went to the ground. " Alas," said he, " the best warrior 
in Erin art thou," spake Nathcrantail. " Four and twenty 
sons have I in the camp. I will go and tell them what 
hidden treasure I have and then return for thee to behead 
me, for I shall die if the spear be taken out of my head." 
"It is well," quoth Cuchulain ; " thou shalt come back." 
Then Nathcrantail returns to the camp. They all come 
io meet him. " Where is the madman's head with thee ? " 

i.-i Stowe. 2-.2 LU. and YBL. 1281-1305. 

The Slaying of Nathcrantail 131 

* every one asks.^ " Wait, ye warriors, till I tell my tale 
to my sons and return to do battle with Cuchulain." ^ 
N. 1992. Soon came Nathcrantail ^ to seek Cuchulain ^ and he 
made a wide sweep with his sword at Cuchulain. * Cuchu- 
lain leaps on high,* so that the sword encountered the pillar 
of stone that was between Cuchulain and his cloak, and 
the sword broke ^ at wain ^ on the pillar-stone. « Then 
Cuchulain became filled with rage, as he had been with the 
boys in Emain, and ^ he sprang from the ground and 
ahghted on the top of the boss of Nathcrantail's shield and 
dealt him a side stroke over the upper edge of the shield, 
so that he struck off his head from his trunk. He raised 
his hand quickly again and gave him another blow on the 
top of the trunk so that he cleft him in twain down to the 
ground. "^ His four severed parts fell to the ground.' 
Thus fell Nathcrantail slain by Cuchulain. Whereupon 
Cuchulain spoke ^ the verse : — ® 

"Now that Nathcrantail has, fallen, 
^ There will be increase of strife ! • 
Would that Medb had battle i° now, i" 
And the third part of the host ! " 

1-1 LU. 1303. 2. ..2 LU. and YBL. 1281-1305. 

3-3 LU. and YBL. 1305. a-* LU. and YBL. 1306. 

6.. .5 LU. and YBL. 1307. 6...6 lu ^nd YBL. 1307-1308. 

''•••' LU. and YBL. 1310. »•••» Stowe. 

»•••» Stowe, and LU. and YBL. 1313. 

10... 10 Stowe, and YBL. and LU. 1313. 



W. 2007. Thereafter ^ on the morrow ^ Medb proceeded with a 
third of the host of the men of Erin about her, ^ and she 
set forth by the highroad of Midluachair ^ till she reached 
Dun Sobairche in the north. And Cuchulain pressed heavily 
on Medb that day. * Medb went on to Cuib to seek the 
bull and Cuchulain pursued her. Now on the road to 
Midluachair she had gone to invade Ulster and Cruthne 
as far as Dun Sobairche.* ^ There it is that Cuchulain 
slew all those we have mentioned in Cuib.^ Cuchulain 
killed Fer Taidle, whence cometh Taidle ; and ^ as they 
went northwards ® he killed the macBuachalla (* the 
Herdsman's sons ') ' at their cairn,^ whence cometh Carn 
macBuachalla ; and he killed Luasce on the slopes, whence 
Lettre Luasc ('the Watery Slopes of Luasc ') ; and he slew 
Bobulge in his marsh, whence Grellach ('the Trampled Place ') 
of Bubulge ; and he slew Murthemne on his hill, whence 
Delga (' the Points') of Murthemne ; ^ he slew Nathcoirpthe 
at his trees, Cruthen on his ford. Marc on his hill, Meille on 
his mound and Bodb in his tower.^ It was afterwards then 

^•••i Stowe, and LU. fo. 70a. 2... 2 gg g^ 

3-3 Eg. 93. 

4--* LU. and YBL. 1315-1317. Eg. 93 mentions a number 
of places to which Cuchulain pursued Medb. 
6. -6 LU. and YBL. 1341. «•••« Eg. 93. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 1343. »•••'» LU. and YBL. 1342-1344. 


The Finding of the Bull 133 

W. 2016. that Cuchulain turned back from the north ^ to Mag Mur- 
themni/ to protect and defend his own borders and land, 
for dearer to him was ^ his own land and inheritance and 
belongings * than the land and territory and belongings of 

It was then too that he came upon the Fir Crandce (' the 
men of Crannach ') ^ from whom cometh Crannach in Mur- 
themne ; ^ to wit, the two Artinne and the two sons of Lecc, 
the two sons of Durcride, the two sons of Gabul, and Drucht 
and Delt and Dathen, Tae and Tualang and Turscur, and 
Tore Glaisse and Glass and Glassne, which are the same 
as the twenty men of Fochard. Cuchulain surprised them 
as they were pitching * camp in advance of all others — ♦ll. fo. 73 
* ten cup-bearers and ten men-of-arms they were* — so that 
they fell by his hand. 

Then it was that Buide (' the Yellow ') son of Ban Blai 
('the White') from ^ SHab Culinn (' HoUymount '), ^ the 
country of AiHU and Medb, and belonging to the special 
followers of ® Ailill and ® Medb, met Cuchulain. Four and 
twenty " warriors ' was their strength.' A ^ blue ^ mantle 
enwrapping each man, the Brown Bull of Cualnge plunging 
and careering before them after he had been brought from 
Glenn na Samaisce (' Heifers* Glen ') to Sliab Culinn, and "* 
fifty of his heifers with him. ^ Cuchulain advances to meet 
them.® " Whence bring ye the drove, ^° ye men ? " 10 
Cuchulain asks. " From yonder mountain," Buide an- 
swers. 11 " Where are its herdsmen ? " Cuchulain asks. 
" One is here where we found him," the warrior answers. 
Cuchulain made three leaps after them, seeking to speak 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1345. ^...a Eg. 93. 3...3 Eg. 93. 

^•••* LU. and YBL. 1348. ^...c lu. and YBL. 1318. 

••••• Stowe. 

• ' Sixty ' is the number in LU. and YBL. ; ' eight ' in Eg. 93. 

'•••' Stowe and LU. and YBL. 1319. s-s Eg. 93. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1320. i»-i» Eg. 93. 

^»-»i LU. and YBL. 1322-1325. 

134 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

2031* with them, as far as the ford. Then it was he spoke to the 
leader^, "What is thine own name?" said Cuchulain. 
" One that neither loves thee nor fears thee," Buide made 
answer ; " Buide son of Ban Blai am I, from the country 
of AiUU and Medb." 1 " Wella-day, O Buide," cried Cuchu- 
lain ; " haste to the ford below that we exchange a couple 
of throws with each other." They came to the ford and 
exchanged a couple of throws there. ^ " Lo, here for thee 
this short spear," said Cuchulain, and he casts the spear 
at him. It struck the shield over his belly, so that it shat- 
tered three ribs in his farther side after piercing his heart 
in his bosom. And Buide son of Ban Blai fell ^on the 
ford. 2 So that thence is Ath Buidi ('Athboy') in Crich 
Roiss ('the land of Ross'). 

For as long or as short a space as ^ these bold champions 
and battle- warriors ^ were engaged in this work of ex- 
changing their two short spears — for it was not in a moment 
they had accomplished it — the Brown Bull of Cualnge was 
carried away in quick course and career ^ by the eight great 
men * to the camp ^ of the men of Erin ^ as swiftly as any 
beeve can be brought to a camp. ^ They opined then it 
would not be hard to deal with Cuchulain if only his spear 
were got from him.^ From this accordingly cam-e the 
greatest shame and grief and madness that was brought on 
Cuchulain on that hosting. 

As regards Medb : every ford ' and every hill ^ whereon she 
stopped, Ath Medba (* Medb's Ford ') ^ and Dindgna Medba 
(* Medb's Hill ') ^ is its name. Every place wherein she 
pitched her tent, Pupall Medba (' Medb's Tent ') is its name. 
Every spot she rested her horselash, BiU Medba ('Medb's 
Tree') is its name. 

On this circuit Medb * turned back from the north after 

1-1 Eg. 93. 2...2 LXJ. and YBL. 1328. 

8... 3 Eg. 93- *•••* Eg. 93. 6-5 Eg. 93- 

8-8 LU. and YBL. 1330-1331. '-^ LU. and YBL. 1353. 

8-« LU. and YBL. 1354. »-» LU. and YBL. 1348-1349. 

The Finding of the Bull 135 

W. 2047. she had remained a fortnight laying waste the province ^ 
^ and plundering the land of the Picts and of Cualnge 
and the land of Conall son of Amargin, ^ and having offered 
battle 2 one night ^ to Findmor (' the Fair-large *) wife 
of Celtchar ^son of Uthechar^ at the gate of Diin So- 
bairche ; and she slew Findmor and laid waste Diin So- 
bairche ; ^ and, after taking Dun Sobairche from her, she 
brought fifty of * her * women into the province of Dal- 
riada.^ ^Then she had them hanged and crucified. 
Whence cometh Mas na Righna ('Queen's Buttock') as 
the name of the hill, from their hanging.^ 

Then came the warriors of four of the five grand 
provinces of Erin at the end of a long fortnight" to 
camp and station ^ at Fochard,'' together with Medb 
and Ailill and the company that were bringing the bull. 

i.-i Eg. 93. '•••' Eg. 93. 3...3 stowe. 4-..4 Eg: 93. 

5---5 LU. and YBL. 1351-1352. «•••« Eg. 33. 

« Omitting ar mis (LL.), which is not found in the other MSS. 
'•••' LU. and YBL. 1355. 



W. 2054. And the bull's cowherd would not allow them ^ to carry 
off ^ the Brown Bull of Cualnge, so that they urged on the 
bull, beating shafts on shields, till they drove him into a 
narrow gap, and the herd trampled the cowherd's body 
thirty feet into the ground, so that they made fragments 
and shreds of his body. Forgemen was the neatherd's 
name. ^And this is the name of the hill, Forgemen.* 
This then is the Death of Forgemen on the Cattle-prey of 
Cualnge. ^ Now there was no peril to them that night so 
long as a man was got to ward off Cuchulain from them on 
the ford.^ 

1-1 Stowe. 2. ..2 Lu. and YBL. 1359. 

3... 3 LU. and YBL. 1360-1361. 




2061. When the men of Erin had come together in one place, 
both Medb and Aihll and the force that was bringing the 
bull to the camp and enclosure, they all declared Cuchulain 
would be no more valiant than another ^ of the men of 
Erin ^ were it not for the wonderful little trick he possessed, 
the spearlet of Cuchulain. Accordingly the men of Erin 
despatched from them Redg, Medb's" jester, to demand 
the light javelin ^ of Cuchulain.^ 

So Redg * came forward to where Cuchulain was and * 
asked for the little javelin, but Cuchulain did not give 
him the little javelin ^ at once ^; he did not deem it good 
and proper to 3rield it. ^" Give me thy spear," said the 
jester. " Nay then, I will not," answered Cuchulain ; " but 
I will give thee treasure." '* I will not take it," said the 
jester. Then he wounded the jester because he would not 
accept from him what he had offered him.^ Redg declared 
he would deprive Cuchulain of his honour ^ unless he got 
the little javehn.' Thereupon Cuchulain hurled the javelin 
at him, so that it struck him in the nape ©f the neck " and 
fell out through his mouth on the ground. And the only 
words Redg uttered were these, " This precious gift is readily 

^—1 LU. page 70b, in the margin. ^--^ Eg. 93. 

• ' Ailill's,' LU. and YBL. 1332 and Eg. 1782. 
"•••» Stowe. *•••* Eg. 93. «•••« Eg. 93. 
« •« LU. and YBL. 1333-1336. '•••' LU. and YBL. 1337. 

* More literally, ' in the pit of his occiput.' 


138 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2072. ours," and his soul separated from his body at the ford. 
Therefrom that ford is ever since called Ath Solom Shet 
(* Ford of the Ready Treasure*). And the copper of the 
javelin was thrown into the river. Hence is Uman-Sruth 
(' Copperstream ') ever after. 

1 *' Let us ask for a sword-truce from Cuchulain," says 
Ailill. " Let Lugaid go to him," one and all answer. 
Then Lugaid goes to parley with him. " How now do I 
stand with the host ? " Cuchulain asks. " Disgraceful 
indeed is the thing thou hast demanded of them," Lugaid 
answers, " even this, that thou shouldst have thy women 
and maidens and half of thy kine. But more grievous than 
all do they hold it that they themselves should be killed 
and thou provisioned." 

Every day there fell a man by Cuchulain till the end of a 
week. 2 Then ^ faith is broken with Cuchulain. Twenty are 
despatched at one time to attack him and he destroys them 
all. "Go to him, O Fergus," says Ailill, " that he may 
vouchsafe us a change of place." A while after this they 
proceed to Cronech. These are they that fell in single com- 
bat with him in that place, to wit : the two Roth, the two 
Luan, two women-thieves, ten fools, ten cup-bearers, the 
ten Fergus, the six Fedelm, the six Fiachu. Now these 
were all killed by him in single combat. 

When their tents were pitched by them in Cronech they 
discussed what they had best do with Cuchulain. " I 
know," quoth Medb, " what is best here. Let some one 
go to him from us for a sword-pact from him in respect of 
the host, and he shall have half the cattle that are here." 
This message they bring to him. " I will do it," said 
Cuchulain. " provided the bond is not broken by you ^ ^to- 

1-1 LU. 1362-1379. ^-"^ Eg. 1782. '-3 Eg. 1782. 




2 " Let a message be sent to him," said Ailill, " that Finn- 
abair my daughter will be bestowed on him, and for him 
to keep away from the hosts/' Mane Athramail (' Father- 
like') goes to him. But first he addresses himself to Laeg. 
" Whose man art thou ? " spake Mane. Now Laeg made 
no answer. Thrice Mane addressed him in this ^ same ^ wise. 
*' Cuchulain's man, " Laeg answers, " and provoke me not, 
lest it happen I strike thy head off thee ! " " This man is 
mad," quoth Mane as he leaves him. Then he goes to 
accost Cuchulain. It was there Cuchulain had doffed his 
tunic, and the * deep * snow was around him where he sat, up 
to his belt, and the snow had melted a cubit around him for 
the greatness of the heat of the hero. And Mane addressed 
him three times in like manner, whose man he was ? 
" Conchobar's man, and do not provoke me. For if thou 
provokest me any longer I will strike thy head off thee as 
one strikes off the head of a blackbird ! " "No easy thing," 
quoth Mand, " to speak to these two." Thereupon Mane 
leaves them and tells his tale to Ailill and Medb. 

" Let Lugaid go to him," said Ailill, " and offer him the 
girl." Thereupon Lugaid goes and repeats this to Cuchu* 
lain. " O master Lugaid," quoth Cuchulain, "it is a 

*•••* LU. fo. 71a, in the margin. »— * LU. 1380-1414. 

'•••3 Eg. 1782. *•••* Eg. 1782. 


1:40 Tain Bo Cualnge 

snare ! " " It is the word of a king ; he hath said it," 
Lugaid answered ; *' there can be no snare in it.*' "So 
be it," said Cuchulain. Forthwith Lugaid leaves him and 
takes that answer to AiHll and Medb. " Let the fool go 
forth in my form," said Ailill, " and the king's crown on his 
head, and let him stand some way off from Cuchulain lest 
he know him ; and let the girl go with him and let the 
fool promise her to him, and let them depart quickly in this 
wise. And methinks ye will play a trick on him thus, so 
that he will not stop you any further till he comes with the 
Ulstermen to the battle." 

Then the fool goes to him and the girl along with him, 
and from afar he addresses Cuchulain. The Hound comes to 
meet him. It happened he knew by the man's speech that he 
was a fool. A slingstone that was in his hand he threw at 
him so that it entered his head and bore out his brains. 
He comes up to the maiden, cuts off her two tresses and 
thrusts a stone through her cloak and her tunic, and plants 
a standing-stone through the middle of the fool. Their 
two pillar-stones are there, even the pillar-stone of Finna- 
bair and the pillar-stone of the fool. 

Cuchulain left them in this plight. A party was sent 
out from Ailill and Medb to search for their people, for it 
was long they thought they were gone, when they saw them 
in this wise. This thing was noised abroad by all the host 
in the camp. Thereafter there was n© truce for them with 
Cuchulain. ^ 

2--2 See page 139, note 2. 



* While the hosts were there in the evening they perceived 
that one stone fell on them coming from the east and another 
from the west to meet it. The stones met one another 
in the air and kept falling between Fergus' camp, the camp 
of Ailill and the camp of Nera. This sport and play con- 
tinued from that hour till the same hour on the next day, 
and the hosts spent the time sitting down, with their shields 
over their heads to protect them from the blocks of stones, 
till the plain was full of the boulders, whence cometh Mag 
Clochair (' the Stony Plain ') . Now it happened it was Curoi 
macDare did this. He had come to bring help to his 
people and had taken his stand in Cotal to fight against 
Munremar son of Gerrcend." The latter had come from 
Emain Macha to succour Cuchiilain and had taken his 
stand on Ard (* the Height ') of Roch. Curoi knew there 
was not in the host a man to compete with Munremar. 
These then it was who carried on this sport between them. 
The army prayed them to cease. Whereupon Munremar 
and Curoi made peace, and Curoi withdrew to his house 
and Munremar to Emain Macha and Munremar came not 
again till the day of the battle. As for Curoi, he came 
not till the combat of Ferdiad. 

" Pray Cuchulain,'' said Medb and Ailill, " that he suffer 

^•••^ LU. fo. 71b, in the margin. 
• Here a sheet is missing in Eg. 1782. 
«•••» LU. 1415-1486. 


142 Tain Bo Cualnge 

us to change our place.'' This then was granted to them 
and the change was made. 

The ' Pains ' of the Ulstermen left them then. When 
now they awoke from their ' Pains/ bands of them came 
continually upon the host to restrain it again. 


Now the youths of Ulster discussed the matter among 
themselves in Emain Macha. " Alas for us," said they, 
" that our friend Cuchulain has no one to succour him ! " 
" I would ask then," spake Fiachu Fulech (* the Bloody') 
son of Ferfebe and own brother to Fiachu ^^ Fialdana 
(* the Generous-daring') son of Ferfebe, " shall I have a 
company from you to go to him with help ? " 

Thrice fifty youths accompany him with their play- 
clubs, and that was a third of the boy-troop of Ulster. The 
army saw them drawing near them over the plain. " A 
great army approaches us over the plain," spake Ailill 
Fergus goes to espy them. " Some of the youths of Ulster 
are they," said he, " and it is to succour Cuchulain they 
come." " Let a troop go to meet them," said Ailill, " un- 
known to Cuchulain ; for if they unite with him ye will 
never overcome them." Thrice fifty warriors went out 
to meet them. They fell at one another's hands, so that 
not one of them got off alive of the number of the youths of 
Lia Toll. Hence is Lia (* the Stone ') of Fiachu son of 
Ferfebe, for it is there that he fell. 

" Take counsel," quoth AiUll ; " inquire of Cuchulain 
about letting you go from hence, for ye will not go past 

^•••^ LU. fo. 71b, in the margin. 

« The LU. version of the episode is given under XVIIa, page 184. 

* Fiachna, in LU. 1436. 


144 Tain Bo Cualnge 

him by force, now that his flame of valour has risen." For 
it was usual with him, when his hero's flame arose in him, 
that his feet would turn back on him and his buttocks 
before him, and the knobs of his calves would come on his 
shins, and one eye would be in his head and the other one 
out of his head. A man's head would have gone into his 
mouth. There was not a hair on him that was not as sharp 
as the thorn of the haw, and a drop of blood was on each 
single hair. He would recognize neither comrades nor 
friends. Alike he would strike them before and behind. 
Therefrom it was that the men of Connacht gave Cuchulain 
the name Riastartha ('the Contorted One'). 



" Let us ask for a sword- truce from Cuchulain," said Ailill 
and Medb. Lugaid goes to him and Cuchulain accords 
the truce. '* Put a man for me on the ford to-morrow," 
said Cuchulain. There happened to be with Medb six royal 
hirelings, to wit : six princes of the Clans of Deda, the three 
Dubs (' the Blacks ') of Imlech, and the three Dergs (* the 
Reds ') of Sruthair, by name. " Why should it not be for 
us," quoth they, '* to go and attack Cuchulain 7 " So the 
next day they went and Cuchulain put an end to the six 
of them. 2 

^•••1 LU. fo. 72b, in the margin. 
2—2 See page 141, note 2. 



W. 2076. The men of Erin discussed among themselves who of them 
*LL. fo. 74a. would be fit to attack ^ and contend with ^ Cuchulain,* 
3 and drive him off from them on the ford at the morning- 
hour early on the morrow.^ And what they all said was 
that C^r (* the Hero ') son of Da Loth should be the one to 
attack him. For thus it stood with Cur : No joy was it to be 
his bedfellow or to live with him. * He from whom he drew 
blood is dead ere the ninth day.* Arid ^ the men of Erin ^ 
said : " Even should it be Cur that falls, a trouble « and 
care * would be removed from the hosts ; ' for it is not easy 
to be with him in regard to sitting, eating or sleeping. ' Should 
it be Cuchulain, it would be so much the better." Cur was 
summoned to Medb's tent. " For what do they want me ? " 
. Ciir asked. " To engage with Cuchulain," replied Medb, 
^ " to do battle, and ward him off from us on the ford at 
the morning hour early on the morrow." ^ ^ Cur deemed 
it not fitting to go and contend with a beardless boy.* 
" Little ye rate our worth. Nay, but it is wonderful how 
ye regard it. Too tender is the youth with whom ye com- 
pare me. Had I known ^^ I was sent against him ^° I would 
not have come myself. I would have lads ^ enough ^^ of 

1-1 Stowe. 2.. .2 Eg g^ 8. ..3 Eg g3^ 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 1488. ^-^ Eg. 93. 

«•••« Stowe. '..' LU. and YBL. 1491. s-.s Eg. 93. 

••••0 LU. and YBL. 1 491-1492. 
10...10 LU. and YBL. 1492-1493. 
*»•••" Stowe and LU. and YBL. 1493. 


The Combat of Cur with Cuchulain 147 

V. 2086. his age from amongst my people to go meet him on a ford." 
" Indeed, it is easy to talk so," quoth Cormac Conlongas 
son of Conchobar. " It would be well worth while for 
thyself if by thee fell Cuchulain." ^ " Howbeit," said Cur, 
" since on myself it falls,* make ye ready a journey * for 
me 2 at morn's early hour on the morrow, for a pleasure 
I will make of the way ^ to this fight,^ * a-going to meet 
Cuchulain.^ It is not this will detain you, namely the 
killing of yonder wildling, Cuchulain ! " 

^ There they passed the night. ^ Then early on the 
morrow morn arose Cur macDa Loth * and he came to the 
ford of battle and combat ; and however early he arose, 
earlier still Cuchulain arose. ^ A cart-load of arms was 
taken along with him wherewith to engage with Cuchulain, 
and he began to ply his weapons, seeking to kill Cuchulain. 
Now Cuchulain had gone early that day ' to practise ' 
his feats ® of valour land prowess.® These are the names of 
them all : the Apple-feat, and the Edge-feat, and the Level 
Shield-feat, and the Little Dart-feat, and the Rope-feat, 
and the Body-feat, and the Feat of Catt, and the Hero's 
Salmon-leap,** and the Pole-cast, and the Leap over a 
Blow (?), and the Folding of a noble Chariot-fighter, and 
the Gae Bulga (' the Barbed Spear ') and the Vantage (?) of 
Swiftness, and the Wheel-feat, ^ and the Rim-feat,» and 
the Over-Breath-feat, and the Breaking of a Sword, and 
the Champion's Cry, and the Measured Stroke, and the Side 
Stroke, and the Running up a Lance and standing erect 
on its Point, and the Binding of the *® noble *° Hero 
(around spear points). 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1496-1497. 2. ..2 stowe. 

»-3 Stowe. «•••« LU. and YBL. 1499-1500. 

6-6 iEg. 93. «•••« Eg. 93. 

'• •' LU. and YBL. 1500. »•••• Stowe. 

« " The Salmon-leap — lying flat on his face and then springing 
up, horizontally, high in the air." — J. A. Synge, " The Aran Is- 
lands," page III, Dublin, 1907. 

••••• YBL. 1504. i» -i* LU. 1506. 

148 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2121. Now this is the reason Cuchulain was wont to practise 
early every morning each of those feats ^ with the agihty 
of a single hand, as best a wild-cat may,^ in order that they 
might not depart from him through forgetfulness or lack 
of remembrance. 

And macDa Loth waited beside his shield until the third 
part of the day, ^ plying his weapons, ^ seeking the chance 
to kill Cuchulain ; ^ and not the stroke of a blow reached 
Cuchulain, because of the intensity of his feats, nor was he 
aware that a warrior was thrusting at him.^ It was then 
Laeg ** * looked at him * and spake to Cuchulain, " Hark ! 
Cucuc. Attend to the warrior that seeks to kill thee." 
Then it was that Cuchulain glanced at him and then it was 
that he raised and threw the eight apples on high ^ and 
cast the ninth apple ^ a throw's length from him at Cur 
macDa Loth, so that it struck on the disk of his shield 
* between the edge and the body of the shield ^ and on the 
forehead ' of the churl, ^ so that it carried the size of an apple 
of his brains out through the back of his head. Thus fell 
Cur macDa Loth also at the hand of Cuchulain. ^ According 
to another version ^ ® it was in Imslige Glendamnach 
that Cur fell.^ 

10 Fergus greeted each one there and this is what he 
said : 10 " If your engagements and pledges bind you now," 
said Fergus, " another warrior ye must send to him yonder 
on the ford ; else, do ye keep to your camp and your quarters 
here till the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow, for Cur 
son of Da Loth is fallen." ^^ " We will grant that," said 
Medb, " and we will not pitch tents nor take quarters here 

^•••i An obscure gloss in LL. 

2-2 LU. and YBL. 1507. ».-.3 LU. and YBL. 1508-1509. 

• 'Fiachu/ LU. and YBL. 1510. 4—4 Stowe. 

6... 6 Following Windisch's emendation of the text. 

« LU. and YBL. 1512. '...7 lu, ^nd YBL. 1513. 

»-8 LU. 1513. ••••» LU. and YBL. 1513-1514. 

i»-^» Stowe. 11-11 Eg. 93. 

The Combat of Cur with Cuchulain 149 

now, but we will remain where we were last night in camp.^^ 
vV. 2136. Considering why we have come, it is the same to us 
even though we remain in those same tents." 

^ The four great provinces of Erin ^ remained in that 
camp till Cur son of Da Loth had fallen, and Loth son of 
Da Bro and Srub Dare son of Feradach and ^ More ^ son 
of Tri Aigneach. These then fell in single combat with 
Cuchulain. But it is tedious to recount one by one the 
cunning and valour of each man of them. 

1—1 Eg, 93. 2... 2 stowe. 


2 Then again the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit 
to fight and do combat with Cuchulain and to ward him 
off from them on the ford at the morning-hour early on the 
morrow. What they each and all said was, that it would 
be his own friend and companion and the man who was his 
equal in arms and feats, even Ferbaeth son of Ferbend. 

Then was Ferbaeth son of Ferbend summoned to them^ 
to the tent of Ailill and Medb. " Wherefore do ye call me 
to you ? " Ferbaeth asked. " In sooth, it would please 
us," Medb answered, " for thee to do battle and contend 
with Cuchulain, and to ward him off from us on the ford 
at the morning hour early on the morrow." 

Great rewards they promised to him for making the 
battle and combat. ^ 3 Finnabair is given to him for this 
and the kingdom of his race, for he was their choice to 
combat Cuchulain. He was the man they thought worthy 
of him, for they both had learned the same service in arms 
with Scathach.3 

* *' I have no desire to act thus," Ferbaeth protested. 
" Cuchulain is my foster-brother and of everlasting cove- 
nant with me. Yet will I go meet him to-morrow, so 
shall I strike off his head ! " "It will be thou that canst 
do it," Medb made answer.* 

^•••^ LU. fo. 73a., in the margin. 2...2 j?g^ g^. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1529-1553. 

*-4 LU. and YBL. 1538-1540. 


The Slaying of Ferbaeth the Witless 151 

2143- Then it was that Cuchulain said to his charioteer, namely 
to Laeg : "Betake thee thither, O master Laeg," said 
Cuchulain, " to the camp of the men of Erin, and bear a 
greeting * from me to my comrades and foster-brothers *LL. fo. 74b. 
and age-mates. Bear a greeting to Ferdiad son of Daman, 
and to Ferdet son of Daman, and to Brass son of Ferb, 
and to Lugaid son of Nos, and to Lugaid son of Solamach, 
to Ferbaeth son of Baetan, and to Ferbaeth son of Fer- 
bend, and a particular greeting withal to mine own foster- 
brother, to Lugaid son of Nos, for that he is the one man 
that still has friendliness and friendship with me now on 
the hosting. And bear him a blessing. ^ Let it be asked 
diligently of him ^ that he may tell thee who * of the men 
of Erin 2 will come to attack me on the morrow." 

Then Laeg went his way to the camp of the men of Erin 
and brought the aforementioned greetings to the com- 
rades and foster-brothers of Cuchulain. And he also went 
into the tent of Lugaid son of Nos. Lugaid bade him 
welcome. " I take ^ that welcome ^ to be truly meant," 
said Laeg. " Tis truly meant for thee," replied Lugaid. 
" To converse with thee am I come from Cuchulain," said 
Laeg, " and I bring these greetings truly and earnestly from 
him to the end that thou tell me who comes to fight with 
Cuchulain to-day." * " Truly not lucky is it for Cuchu- 
lain," said Lugaid, " the strait wherein he is alone against 
the men of Erin.* The curse of his fellowship and brother- 
hood and of his friendship and affection ^ and of his arms ^ 
be upon that man ; even his own real foster-brother him- 
self, ®even the companion of us both,* Ferbaeth son of 
Ferbend. "^ He it is that comes to meet him to-morrow.^ 
He was invited into the tent of ^ Ailill and ^ Medb a while 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1525. 2-2 Stowe. ^-^ Stowe. 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 1526-1527. »•••» LU. and YBL. 1528. 

••••« LU. and YBL. 1527. '•••'' LU. and YBL. 1528. 
••••» LU. and YBL. 1532. 

152 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2165, since. The daughter Finnabair was set by his side. It is 
she who fills up the drinking-horns for him ; it is she who 
gives him a kiss with every drink that he takes ; it is she 
who serveth the food ^ to him.^ Not for every one with 
Medb is the ale ° that is poured out for Ferbaeth ^ till he 
is drunk.2 Only fifty wagon-loads of it have been brought 
to the camp.*' 

Then with heavy head, sorrowful, downcast, heaving 
sighs, Laeg retraced his steps to Cuchulain. " With heavy 
head, sorrowful, downcast and sighing, my master Laeg 
comes to meet me," said Cuchulain. " It must be that 
one of my brothers-in-arms comes to attack me." For he 
regarded as worse a man of the same training in arms 
as himself than aught other warrior. " Hail now, O 
Laeg my friend," cried Cuchulain; "who comes to 
attack me to-day ? " " The curse of his fellowship and 
brotherhood, of his friendship and affection be upon him; 
even thine own real foster-brother himself, namely Fer- 
baeth son of Ferbend. A while ago he was summoned 
into the tent of Medb. The maiden was set by his side ; 
It is she who fills up the drinking-horns for him ; it is 
she who gives him a kiss with every drink ; it is she 
who serveth his food. Not for every one with Medb is the 
ale that is poured out for Ferbaeth. Only fifty wagon- 
loads of it have been brought to the camp." 

3 Cuchulain bade Laeg go to Lugaid, that he come to 
talk with him. Lugaid came to Cuchulain. " So Ferbaeth 
comes to oppose me to-morrow," said Cuchulain. " Aye, 
then," answered Lugaid. ^ * " Evil is this day," cried 
Cuchulain. " I shall not be alive thereafter. Two of the 
same age are we, two of equal deftness, two of equal 

i"i H. I. 13. 2.. .2 LU. and YBL. 1535. 

* In LU. and YBL. it is wine. 
S-.3 LU. and YBL. 1541-1544. 
*•••* LU. and YBL. 1544-1549. 

The Slaying of Ferbaeth the Witless 153 

weight, when we come together. O Lugaid, greet him for 
me. Tell him, also, it is not the part of true valour to 
come to oppose me. Tell him to come meet me to-night 
to speak with me." 

Lugaid brought back this word to Ferbaeth. Now 
N. 2183. inasmuch as Ferbaeth shunned not the parley,* he by no 
means waited till morn but he went straightway ^ to the 
glen ^ 2 that night * to recant his friendship with Cuchulain, 
3 and Fiachu son of Ferfebe went with him.^ And Cuchulain 
called to mind the friendship and fellowship and brother- 
hood 5 that had been between them, ^ ® and Scathach, 
the nurse of them both ; * and Ferbaeth would not consent 
to forego the fight." ' " I must fight," said Ferbaeth. 
" I have promised it * to Medb." ^ ^ " Friendship with 
thee then is at an end," » cried Cuchulain,' and in anger he 
left him and drove the sole of his foot against a holly-spit 
^^ in the glen,^^ so that it pierced through flesh and bone and 
skin 1^ and came out by his knee.^^ ^^ Thereat Cuchulain 
became frantic, and he gave a strong tug and ^^ drew the 
spit out from its roots, ^^ from sinew and bone, from flesh 
and from skin.^^ 1* " Go not, Ferbaeth, till thou seest 
the find I have made." " Throw it then," cried Fer- 
baeth, 1* And Cuchulain threw the holly-spit over his 
shoulder after Ferbaeth, and he would as lief that it reached 
him or that it reached him not. The spit struck Ferbaeth 
in the nape of the neck,* so that it passed out through his 

1-1 Eg. 93. 2...2 Eg. 93, LU. and YBL. 1549. 

"•••' LU. and YBL. 1550. ^•••* See page 152, note 4. 

^'"^ Stowe. «•••« LU. and YBL. 1551-1552. 
• Reading, with Windisch, from Stowe which gives a better 
meaning than LL. 

' ••' LU. and YBL. 1552-1553. 

«...8 YBL. 1553. ••••• Literally, ' Keep thy covenant, then ! * 

w- ." LU. and YBL. 1554. 

U...11 LXJ. and YBL. 1555. 12-12 Eg. 93. 

18. ..18 Eg^ g^ 14. ..14 LU. and YBL. 1556-1557. 

-• See note, page 137. 

154 Tain Bo Cualnge 

N, 2192. mouth ^in front ^ and fell to the ground, and thus Fer- 
baeth fell ^ backward into the glen.* 

" Now that was a good throw, Cucuc ! " cried ^ Fiachu 
son of Ferfebe,^ * who was on the mound between the two 
camps,* for he considered it a good throw to kill that 
warrior with a spit of holly. Hence it is that Focherd 
Murthemni (* the good Cast of Murthemne ') is the name 
of the place where they were. 

^ Straightway Ferbaeth died in the glen. Hence cometh 
Glenn Ferbaeth. Something was heard. It was Fergus 
who sang : — 

" Fool's" emprise was thine, Ferbaeth, 
That did bring thee to thy grave. 
Ruin hath come on anger here; 
Thy last end in Croen Corann ! 

Fithi was the hill's old name. 
In Croenech in Murthemne. 
'Ferbaeth* now shall be the name 
Of the plain where Ferbaeth fell!/' ^ 

1...1 LU. and YBL. 1559. 

2...2 LU. and YBL. 1559-1560. 

3. ..8 " Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar.'* Eg. 93. 

*...* Eg. 93- 

6. ..6 LU. and YBL. 1563-1569. 

• With a play on the word Ferbaeth, ' a foolish man. ' 



2 LuGAiD Spake : " Let one of you be ready on the morrow 
to go against that other." " There shall not any one at all 
be found to go," quoth AiUU, " unless guile be used. What- 
ever man comes to you, give him wine, so that his soul 
may be glad, and let him be told that that is all the wine 
that has been brought to Cruachan : ' It would grieve us 
that thou shouldst drink water in our camp.' And let 
Finnabair be placed on his right hand and let him be told, 
' She shall go with thee if thou bring us the head of the Con- 
torted.' " So a summons was sent to each warrior, one 
on each night, and those words used to be told him. Cuchu- 
lain killed every man of them in turn. At length no one 
could be got to attack him.^ 
2197. ^ " Good,^ my master Laeg," *said Cuchulain,* 
** go for me to the camp of the men of Erin to hold con- 
verse with Lugaid ^ macNois,^ * my friend, my com- 
panion and my foster-brother,^ ^ and bear him a greeting 
from me and bear him my blessing, for he is the one man 
that keeps amity and friendship with me on the great hosting 
of the Cattle-raid of Cualnge.' And discover ^ in what 
way they are in the camp,^ whether or no anything has 

^•••1 LU. fo. 73b, in the margin. 

2-2 LU. and YBL. 15 74-1 584 and Eg. 1782. Here Eg. 178^ 
breaks off. 

3-3 Eg. 93. 4--* Eg. 93 and Eg. 209. 

»..« Eg. 93 and Eg. 209. «— « Eg. 93. 

'•••' Eg. 93. ••••8 LU. and YBL. 1572. 


156 Tain Bo Cualnge 

happened to Ferbaeth,« ^ whether Ferbaeth has reached 
the camp ; ^ ^ and inquire for me if the cast I made a while 
ago reached Ferbaeth or did not reach, and if it did reach 
him,2 ask who ^ of the men of Erin ^ comes to meet me 
* to fight and do battle with me at the morning hour early * 
on the morrow." 

Laeg proceeds to Lugaid's tent. Lugaid bids him wel- 
come. ^ " Welcome to thy coming and arrival, O Laeg," 
said Lugaid.^ " I take that welcome as truly meant," 
Laeg rephed. " It is truly meant for thee," quoth Lugaid, 
« " and thou shalt have entertainment here to-night." ^ 
■^ " Victory and blessing shalt thou have," said Laeg ; 
^* but not for entertainment am I come, but' to hold con- 
verse with thee am I come from ^ thine own friend and 
companion and « foster-brother, » from Cuchulain,® that 
thou may est tell me whether Ferbaeth ^^ was smitten." ^^ 
*' He was," answered Lugaid, " and a blessing on the hand 
that smote him, for he fell dead in the valley a while ago." 
" Tell me who ^^ of the men of Erin ^^ comes to-morrow to 
12 combat and ^^ fight with Cuchulain ^^ at the morning 
hour early on the morrow ? '* i3 " They are persuading a 
brother of mine own to go meet him, a foolish, haughty 
arrogant youth, yet dealing stout blows and stubborn. 
^* And he has agreed to do the battle and combat. 1* And 
it is to this end they will send him to fight Cuchulain, that 
he, my brother, may fall at his hands, so that I myself 
must then go to avenge him upon Cuchulain. But I 
will not go there till the very day of doom. Larine great- 

« From here to p. 170 is lacking in LL. owing to the loss of a sheet. 
This is supplied from Stowe. 

^•••^ Stowe. Eg. 209 and H. i. 13. 2... 2 jgg g^ 

3...3 H. 2. 17. -t-* Eg. 93. 

*•••* H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. «•••« Eg. 93. 

'•••' Eg. 93. *•••« Eg. 93. "•••' Eg. 209. 

10... 10 Following Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 11...11 Eg. 93. 

^2...i2 Eg. 93. "•••'' Eg. 93. i*-i4 Eg. 93. 

The Combat of Larine macNois 157 

221 1, grandson of Blathmac is that brother. ^And do thou 
tell Cuchulain to come to Ferbaeth's Glen and ^ I will 
go 2 thither ^ to speak with Cuchulain about him," said 

^ Laeg betook him to where Cuchulain was.* Lugaid's 
two horses were taken and his chariot was yoked to them 
* and * he came ^ to Glen Ferbaeth ^ to his tryst with 
Cuchulain, so that a parley was had between them. * The 
two champions and battle-warriors gave each other wel- 
come.^ Then it was that Lugaid spake : '^ " There is no 
condition that could be promised to me for fighting and 
combating with thee," said Lugaid, " and there is no con- 
dition on which I would undertake it, but' they are per- 
suading a brother of mine to come fight thee ^ on the 
morrow,^ to-wit, a foolish, dull, uncouth youth, dealing 
stout blows. ® They brought him into the tent of Ailill 
and Medb and he has engaged to do the battle and combat 
with thee.^ ^° He is befooled about the same maiden.^® 
And it is for this reason they are to send him to fight thee, 
that he may fall at thy hands, ^%o that we two may quarrel, ^^ 
and to see if I myself will come to avenge him upon thee. 
But I will not, till the very day of doom. And by the 
fellowship that is between us, ^^ and by the rearing and 
nurture I bestowed on thee and thou didst bestow on me, 
bear me no grudge because of Larine. ^^ si^y not my brother 
^* lest thou shouldst leave me brotherless." ^* 

" By my conscience, truly," cried Cuchulain, ^* kill him 
I will not, but ^* the next thing to death will I inflict on 
him. ^5 No worse would it be for him to die than what I 

1...1 Eg. 93. 2-« Eg. 93. 3...3 Eg. 93, 

4... 4 Eg. 93. *— * LU. and YBL. 1592 and Eg. 93. 

«•••• LU. and YBL. 1593 and Eg. 93. '-7 Eg. 93. 

8. ..8 Eg. 209. »— » Eg. 93. 

10.. .10 LU. and YBL. 1595-1596. "•••" LU. 1597. 

12...12 H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. "...i3 lu. and YBL. 1596-1597^ 

14... 14 Eg. 93. i»-.i6 Eg. 209. 

158 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2222. will give him/' ^^ "I give thee leave. ^ It would please 
me well shouldst thou beat him sorely,^ for to my dishonour 
he comes to attack thee/* 

Thereupon Cuchulain went back and Lugaid returned 
to the camp ^lest the men of Erin should say it was betray- 
ing them or forsaking them he was if he remained longer 
parleying with Cuchulain. ^ 

Then ^ on the next day ^ it was that Larine son of 
Nos, * brother of Lugaid king of Munster,* was sum- 
moned to the tent of Ailill and Medb, and Finnabair was 
placed by his side. It was she that filled up the drinking- 
horns for him and gave him a kiss with each draught that 
he took and served him his food. " Not to every one 
with Medb is given the drink that is poured out for 
Ferbaeth or for Larine/' quoth Finnabair; "only the 
load of fifty wagons of it was brought to the camp." « 

5 Medb looked at the pair. :/* Yonder pair rejoiceth 
my heart/' said she.^ "Whom wouldst thou say?*' 
asked * Ailill.® " The yonder, "^ in truth/' ^ said 
she. " What of him ? " asked Ailill. " It is thy wont to 
set the mind on that which is far from the purpose (Medb 
answered). It were more becoming for thee to bestow 
thy thought on the couple in whom are united the greatest 
distinction and beauty to be found on any road in Erin, 
namely Finnabair, ^ my daughter,^ and Larine macNois. 
■* 'Twould be fitting to bring them together." * "I regard 
them as thou dost," answered Aihll ; ^^ " I will not oppose 
thee herein. He shall have her if only he brings me the 

1 ••' LU. and YBL. 1597 and Eg. 93. 

2-2 Eg. 93- '•••' LU. and YBL. 1598. 

*•••* LU. and YBL. 1585. 

-* Emending the text to agree with the two similar passages above. 

^•••^ LU. and YBL, 1586. 

«•••« Corrected from LL., which has ' Medb.' 

'•••' Eg. 93. 8.. .8 Eg ^3 and H. 2. 17. 

♦• •• LU. and YBL. 1588. lo-w LU. and YBL. 1588-1590. 

The Combat of Larine macNois 159 

head of Cuchulain." " " Aye, bring it I will/' said Larine. ^^ 
^ 2235. It was then that Larine shook and tossed himself with joy, 
so that the sewings of the flock bed burst under him and 
the mead of the camp was speckled with its feathers. 

^ They passed the night there. ^ Larine longed for 
day with its full light ^ to go ^ to attack Cuchulain. 
At the early day-dawn on the morrow he came, ^ and the 
maiden came too to embolden him,^ and he brought a 
wagon-load of arms with him, and he came on to the ford 
to encounter Cuchulain. The mighty warriors of the camp 
and station considered it not a goodly enough sight to view 
the combat of Larine ; only the women and boys and girls, 
^ thrice fifty of them,* went to scoff and to jeer at his 

Cuchulain went to meet him at the ford and he deemed 
it unbecoming to bring along arms ^ or to ply weapons 
upon him,^ so Cuchulain came to the encounter unarmed 
® except for the weapons he wrested from his opponent.® 
' And when Larine reached the ford, Cuchulain saw him 
and made a rush at him,' Cuchulain knocked all of 
Larine' s weapons out of his hand as one might knock toys 
out of the hand of an infant. Cuchulain ground and bruised 
him between his arms, he lashed him and clasped him, 
he squeezed him and shook him, so that he spilled all the 
dirt out of him, « so that the ford was defiled with his dung « 
• and the air was fouled with his dust • and an ^^ unclean, 
filthy ^^ wrack of cloud arose in the four airts wherein he was. 
Then from the middle of the ford Cuchulain hurled Larine 
far from him across through the camp ^^ till he fell into 
Lugaid's two hands ^^ at the door of the tent of his brother. 

• Literally, ' of the Contorted.' ^-i Eg. 93- ^-'''Eg. 209. 
3-"3 LU. and YBL. 1599. ^--^ H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 

^•••» Eg. 209. «•••« Eg. 209. '•••' Eg. 93- 

«• •« LU. and YBL. 1602. ••••» LU. and YBL. 1603. 

10. ..10 Eg, 93 and H. 2. 17. 11... n LU. and YBL. 1604. 

i6o Tain Bo Ctialnge 

W. 2252. Howbeit ^ from that time forth ^ ^ for the remainder of 
his Hfe 2 he never got up without a ^ sigh and a ^ groan, 
and * he never lay down without hurt, and he never stood 
up without a moan ; * ^ as long as he lived ^ he never ate 
« a meal ® without plaint, and never thenceforward was he 
free from weakness of the loins and oppression of the chest 
and without cramps and the frequent need which obliged 
him to go out. Still he is the only man that made escape, 
^ yea though a bad escape,' after combat with Cuchulain 
on the Cualnge Cattle-raid. Nevertheless that maiming 
took e^ect upon him, so that it afterwards brought him 
his death. Such then is the Combat of Larine on the Tain 
B6 Cualnge. 

1--1 Eg. 93, H. 2. 17 and Eg. 209. 2—2 Eg g^ 

'•••^ Eg. 209. ^--^^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

6-5 LU. and YBL. 1604. «•••« Eg. 209. 

'•••7 LU. and YBL. 1607. 



2 Then Cuchulain saw draw near him a young woman 
with a dress of every colour about her and her appearance 
was most surpassing. " Who art thou ? " Cuchulain asked. 
''Daughter of Buan ('the Eternal'), the king/' she an- 
swered. " I am come to thee ; I have loved thee for the 
high tales they tell of thee and have brought my treasures 
and cattle with me." " Not good is the time thou hast 
come. Is not our condition weakened through hunger ? 
Not easy then would it be for me to foregather with a 
woman the while I am engaged in this struggle." " Herein 
I will come to thy help." " Not for the love of a woman * 
did I take this in hand." " This then shall be thy lot," 
said she, " when I come against thee what time thou art 
contending with men : In the shape of an eel I will come be- 
neath thy feet in the ford ; so shalt thou fall." " More likely 
that, methinks, than daughter of a king ! I will seize thee," 
said he, " in the fork of my toes till thy ribs are broken, 
and thou shalt remain in such sorry plight till there come 
my sentence of blessing on thee." " In the shape of a grey 
she- wolf will I drive the cattle on to the ford against thee." 
" I will cast a stone from my sling at thee, so shall it smash 

^•••^ LU. fo. 74a, in the margin. 
2-2 LU. and YBL. 1609-1629. 

• Literally, ' non causa podicis feminae* The MS. is partly erased 

161 M 

1 62 Tain Bo Cualnge 

thine eye in thy head " (said he), " and thou wilt so remain 
maimed till my sentence of blessing come on thee." " I 
will attack thee," said she, " in the shape of a hornless red 
heifer at the head of the cattle, so that they will overwhelm 
thee on the waters and fords and pools and thou wilt not 
see me before thee." " I will," replied he, " fling a stone 
at thee that will break thy leg under thee, and thou wilt 
thus be lamed till my sentence of blessing come on thee." 
Therewith she went from him.^ 





^ Then it was debated by the men of Erin who would be 
fitted to fight and contend with Cuchulain and ward him 
off from them on the ford at the morning-hour early on 
the morrow. What they all agreed was that it should be 
Loch Mor (* the Great ') son of Mofemis, the royal champion 
2260. of Munster.3 It was then that Loch Mor son of Mofemis 
was summoned * like the rest * to the pavilion of Ailill and 
Medb, ^ and he was promised the equal of Mag Murthemni 
of the smooth field of Mag Ai, and the accoutrement of 
twelve men, and a chariot of the value of seven bondmaids.^ 
" What would ye of me ? " asked Loch. " To have fight 
with Cuchulain," replied Medb. " I will not go on that 
errand, for I esteem it no honour nor becoming to attack 
a tender, young, smooth-chinned, beardless boy. ® Tis 
not seemly to speak thus to me, and ask it not of me.* 
And not to belittle him do I say it, but I have ' a doughty 
brother, ^ the match of himself," ^ said Loch,' *' a man 
to confront him. Long macEmonis, to wit, and he will re- 
joice to accept an offer from you ; ^ and it were fitting 

*— 1 YBL. 1630. 2... 2 Lu. fo. 74b, between the columns. 

3-3 Eg. 93. *..-4 LU. and YBL. 1631. 

»•••« LU. and YBL. 1631-1633. ••••« Eg. 209. 

'•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. »•••« Eg. 93. 

••••• Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 


164 Tain Bo Cualnge 

for him to contend with Cuchulain for Long has no beard 
on cheek or Hp any more than Cuchulain." ^ 
W. 2266. 1 Thereupon ^ Long was summoned to the tent of AiUU 
and Medb, and Medb promised him great gifts, even livery 
for twelve men of cloth of every colour, and a chariot worth 
four** times seven bondmaids, and Finnabair to wife for 
him alone, and at all times entertainment in Cruachan, 
and that wine 5 would be poured out for him. 

2 They passed there that night and he engaged to do 
the battle and combat, and early on the morrow ^ went 
Long ^ to the ford of battle and combat ^ to seek Cuchu- 
lain, and Cuchulain slew him and ^ they brought him dead 
into the presence of his brother, namely of Loch. And 
Loch * came forth and raised up his loud, quick voice 
and * cried, had he known it was a bearded man that slew 
him, he would slay him for it.^ ^ And it was in the presence 
of Medb that he said it.^ ' " Lead a battle-force against 
him," Medb cried to her host, " over the ford from the 
west, that ye may cross, and let the law of fair fight be 
broken with Cuchulain." The seven Mane the warriors 
went first, till they saw him to the west of the edge of the 
ford. He wore his festive raiment on that day and the 
women clambered on the men that they might behold 
hhn. " It grieves me," said Medb. " I cannot see the boy 
because of whom they go there." " Thy mind would not 
be the easier for that," quoth Lethrenn, Aihll's horseboy. 
*' if thou shouldst see him." Cuchulain came to the ford 
as he was. " What man is that yonder, O Fergus ? " asked 
Medb. And Medb, too, cUmbed on the men to get a look 

1...1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

• ' Thrice.' Eg. 209. * ' Ale,' Eg. 209. 2. ..2 gg^ g^^ 

3-3 Eg. 93. 4-* Eg. 93. 

6-"5 LU. and YBL. 1637-1639. »•••« Eg. 93. 

'•••' LU. fo. 61, note 7, edition O'Keeife and Strachan. 

« Fergus' answer, eight Unes in rose, LU. page 61, note 7, edition 
of Strachan and O'Keeffe (these lines are not in YBL.), has been 
omitted in the translation. 

The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain 165 

2272. at him.' ^ Then ^ Medb called upon ^ her handmaid 
for two woman-bands,2 3 ^f^-y qj- twice fifty ^ of her 
women, to go speak with Cuchulain and to charge him to 
put a false beard on. The woman- troop went their way to 
Cuchulain and told him to put a false beard on ^ if he 
wished to engage in battle or combat with goodly warriors 
or with goodly youths of the men of Erin ; * ^ that sport 
was made of him in the camp for that he had no beard, 
and that no good warrior would go meet him but only mad- 
men. It were easier to make a false beard :'^ " For no brave 
warrior in the camp thinks it seemly to come fight with 
thee, and thou beardless,'' ^ said they.^ '"If that 
please me," said Cuchulain, " then I shall do it." ' There- 
upon Cuchulain ® took a handful of grass and speaking a 
spell over it he ^ bedaubed himself a beard ® in order to 
obtain combat with a man, namely with Loch.^ And he 
came onto the knoll overlooking the men of Erin and 
made that beard manifest to them all, ^^so that every one 
thought it was a real beard he had.^^ ^^ " Tistrue," spake 
the women, " Cuchulain has a beard. It is fitting for a 
warrior to fight with him." They said that to urge on 
Loch.^^ Loch son of Mofemis saw it, and what he said 
was, " Why, that is a beard on Cuchulain ! " *' It is what 
I perceive," Medb answered. Medb promised the same 
great terms to Loch to put a check to Cuchulain. 12 " I 
will not undertake the fight till the end of seven days from 
this day," exclaimed Loch. " Not fitting is it for us to 
leave that man unattacked for all that time," Medb an- 
swered. " Let us put a warrior every night to spy upon him 

1...1 Eg. 93 and Eg. 209. 2...2 gg 209. 

3...3 Eg. 93. *•••* Eg. 93. 

»-5 LU- and YBL. 164Q-1641. «•••« Eg. 209. 

'•..' Eg. 93. «•••* LU. 1643. 

*•••• LU. and YBL. 1642. i»-i« LU. 1644. 

11. ..11 LU. 1645-1647. « In Eg. 93, this is said by Medb. 

12. ..12 LU. 1647-1708 and Eg. 93 {Revue Celtique, t. xv, 1894, 
pp. 64-66). 

1 66 Tain Bo Cualnge 

if, perad venture, we might get a chance at him." This 
then they did. A warrior went every night to spy upon 
him and he slew them all. These are the names of the 
men who fell there : the seven Conall, the seven Oengus, the 
seven Uargus, the seven Celtri, the eight Fiach, the ten Ailill, 
the ten Delbrath, the ten Tasach. These are the deeds of 
that week on Ath Grenca. 

Medb sought counsel, what was best to be done with 
Cuchulain, for she was sore grieved at all of her host that 
had been slain by him. This is the counsel she took : To 
despatch keen, high-spirited men at one time to attack 
him when he would come to an appointment she would 
make to speak with him. For she had a tryst the next 
day with Cuchulain, to conclude the pretence of a truce 
with him in order to get a chance at him. She sent forth 
messengers to seek him to advise him to come to her, and 
thus it was that he should come, unarmed, for she herself 
would not come but with her women attendants to converse 
with him. 

The runner, namely Traigtren (' Strongfoot ') ^ son of 
Traiglethan (' Broadfoot')^ went to the place where Cuchu- 
lain was and gave him Medb's message. Cuchulain promised 
that he would do her will. " How liketh it thee to meet 
Medb to-morrow, O Cuchulain ? " asked Laeg. " Even 
as Medb desires it," answered Cuchulain. " Great are 
Medb's deeds," said the charioteer ; "I fear a hand behind 
the back with her." " How is it to be done ^ by us ^ then ? " 
asked he. " Thy sword at thy waist," the charioteer 
answered, " that thou be not taken off thy guard. For a 
warrior is not entitled to his honour-price if he be taken 
without arms, and it is the coward's law that falls to him 
in this manner." " Let it be so, then," said Cuchulain. 

Now it was on Ard (' the Height ') of Aignech which is 
called Fochard to-day that the meeting took place. Then 
i-i Eg. 93. '•••' Eg. 93. 

The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain 167 

fared Medb to the tryst and she stationed fourteen men 
of those that were bravest of her bodyguard in ambush 
against him. These were they : the two Glassine, the two 
sons of Buccridi, the two Ardan, the two sons of Licce, the 
two Glasogma, the two sons of Crund, Drucht and Delt and 
Dathen, Tea and Tascur and Tualang, Taur and Glese. 

Then Cuchulain comes to meet her. The men rise against 
him. Fourteen spears are hurled at him at the same time. 
The Hound defends himself, so that neither his skin nor 
protection (?) is touched and he turns in upon them and 
kills them, the fourteen men. Hence these are the * Four- 
teen men of Fochard.' And they are also the ' Men of 
Cronech,' for it is in Cronech at Fochard they were slain. 
And it is of this Cuchulain spake : — 

" Good my skill " in champion's deeds. 
Valorous are the strokes I deal 
On the brilliant phantom host. 
War with numerous bands I wage. 
For the fall of warlike chief — 
This, Medb's purpose and Ailill's — 
Direful (?) hatred hath been raised ! " ^ 

This is the reason why the name Focherd clung to that 
place, to wit : Fo ' Good ' and Cerd ' Art,' which signifieth 
* Good the feat of arms ' that happened to Cuchulain there. 

Then came Cuchulain and he overtook ^ the hosts ^ pitch- 
ing camp, and there were slain the two Daigri, the two Anli 
and the four Dungai of Imlech. And there Medb began to 
urge on Loch : " Great is the scorn that is made of thee," 
said she, " that the man that killed thy brother should be 
destroying our host ^ here before thee ^ and thou not 

« With a play on the name Focherd, as is explained in the 
following paragraph. 

» Here follow six lines in rose, LU. 1 692-1 697, edition of Strachan 
and O'Keeffe (the passage does not occur in YBL.), of uncertain 
meaning ; they are omitted in the translation. 

i-» Eg. 93. »•••=» Eg. 93. 

i68 Tain B6 Cualnge 

attack him. For sure we are that such as he yonder, that 
great and fierce madman, will not be able to withstand the 
valour and rage of a warrior such as thou art. And, further, 
from one and the same instructress the art was acquired by 
you both." 12 
W. 2283. " I will go forth and attack him," cried Loch. Loch 
went to attack Cuchulain, ^ to take vengeance on him for 
his brother, ^ * for it was shown him that Cuchulain had 
a beard ; ^ so they met on the ford where Long had fallen. 
" Let us move to the upper ford," said Loch, "for I will 
not fight on this ford," since he held it defiled, ^ cursed and 
unclean, 3 the ford whereon his brother had fallen. * Now 
when Cuchulain came to look for the ford, the men drove 
the cattle across.* ^ " The cattle ^ ® will be across thy 
water here to-day," said Gabran ^ ^ the poet.' ^ Hence 
Cometh Ath Tarteisc (' the Ford over thy Water ') and Tir 
Mor Tarteisc (' the Great Land over thy Water ').^ There- 
after they fought on the upper ford ^ between Methe and 
Cethe at the head of Tir Mor,^ ^^ and they were for a long 
space and time at their feats wounding and striking each 
other. 10 

Then it was that the Morrigan daughter of ^^ Aed ^^ 
Ernmas came from the fairy dwellings to destroy Cuchulain. 
For she had threatened on the Cattle-raid of Regomain" 
that she would come to undo Cuchulain what time he would 
be 1^ in sore distress ^^ when engaged in ^^ battle and 1* 
combat with a goodly warrior, ^^ with Loch,i^ in the course 
of the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge. Thither then the Morrigan 

^•••i LU. and YBL. 1709 and Eg. 93. 

2-. .2 Eg g^ and LU. 1709. 3.. .3 Eg g^ ^nd H. 2. 17. 

*-4 LU. and, partly, YBL. 1711. ^...s yBL. 1711. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 1711. '•••' LU. 1712. 

8"-» LU. and YBL. 1712. »•••» Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

10.. .10 Eg, 93. 11... n Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

12... 12 Seepage 165, note 12. 

• Edited by Wh. Stokes and E. Windisch, in Irische Texte, 
Bd. II, SS. 241-254. 

13. ..13 Eg. 93. 14. ..14 Eg. 93. 15. ..16 Eg. 209. 

The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain 169 

V. 2293. came in the shape of a white, ^ hornless/ red-eared heifer, 
with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze 
between each two of the heifers. ^ s^g bursts upon the 
pools and fords at the head of the cattle. It was then that 
Cuchulain said, " I cannot see the fords for the waters." ^ 
• The women ^ came with their strange sorcery, and ^ con- 
strained Cuchulain by geasa and by inviolable bonds * to 
check the heifer for them * lest she should escape from him 
without harm. Cuchulain made an unerring cast ^ from his 
sling-stick ^ at her, so that he shattered one of the Morri- 
gan's eyes. 

^ Now when the men met on the ford and began to fight 
and to struggle, and when each of them was about to strike 
the other, ^ the Morrigan came thither in the shape of a 
slippery, black eel down the stream. Then she came on the 
linn and she coiled ^ three folds ' ^ and twists ^ around 
the ^ two ^ feet ^^ and the thighs and forks ^^ of Cuchulain, 
^1 till he was lying on his back athwart the ford ^^ ^^ and his 
limbs in the air.^^ 

While Cuchulain was busied freeing himself ^^ and be- 
fore he was able to rise,^^ Loch wounded him crosswise 
through the breast, ^* so that the spear " went through him 1* 
1^ and the ford was gore-red with his blood. ^^ ^^ '* 111, 
indeed," cried Fergus, " is this deed in the face of the foe. 
Let some of ye taunt him, ye men," he cried to his people, 
" to the end that he fall not in vain ! " 

Bricriu Nemthenga (' Of the Venom-tongue *) son of Car- 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1722. 2.. .2 lU. and YBL. 1722. 

3"-5 Eg. 93. 4. ..4 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

5—6 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. «•••« LU. 1713. 

'•••' LU. and YBL. 1713. 8...8 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

*— » Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. i»-io Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

^1-" LU. and YBL. 1714. 12.. .12 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

18. ..13 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. i*- i* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

» ' Sword,' LU. and YBL. 1734. 16...16 lu. 1714. 

1%.. 16 LU., edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe, p. 63, note 17. Simi- 
larly, YBL. 1 7 14-17 1 6, and Eg. 93. 

170 Tain Bo Cualnge 

bad arose and began to revile Cuchulain. " Thy strength 
has gone from thee," said he, " when a httle salmon over- 
throws thee even now when the Ulstermen are about to 
come out of their ' Pains/ i« ^ Hard it would be for thee 
to take on thee warrior's deeds in the presence of the men 
of Erin and to repel a stout warrior clad in his armour ! " ^ 

2 Then 2 ^ at this incitation ^ * Cuchulain arose,* ^ and 
with his left heel he smote the eel on the head,^ ^ so that 
its ribs broke within it ^ ' and he destroyed one half of its 
brains after smashing half of its head.*^ ® And the cattle 
were driven by force past the hosts to the east and they 
even carried away the tents on their horns at the thunder- 
feat the two warriors made on the ford.^ 
W. 2302. The Morrigan next came in the form of a rough, grey- 
red bitch- wolf ^ with wide open jaws^ ^^ and she bit Cuchu- 
lain in the arm ^^ ^^ and drove the cattle against him west- 
wards, ^^ ^2 and Cuchulain made a cast of his little javelin 
at her, strongly, vehemently, so that it shattered one eye 
in her head.^^ During this space of time, whether long or 
short, while Cuchulain was engaged in freeing himself. Loch 
wounded him ^^ through the loins. ^^ Thereupon Cuchu- 
lain chanted a lay. 

i*Then did Cuchulain to the Morrigan the three things 

he had threatened her on the Cattle-raid of Regomain,i* 

♦LL. fo. 75a. and his anger arose within him and he * wounded Loch with 

the Gae Biilga (' the Barbed-spear '), so that it passed through 

1—1 LU. fo. 63, note 19, edit. Strachan and O'Keeffe, and Eg. 93. 
2-2 LU. and YBL. 1716. 3.. .3 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

4-4 LU. and YBL. 1717. ^-^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 1717. '•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

8-8 LU. and YBL. 1718-1720. »-» Eg. 209. 
10.. .10 Eg. g3 and H. 2. 17. 11...11 LU. and YBL. 1721. 

12. ..12 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17, and, similarly, LU. and YBL. 1721. 
13. ..13 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

« The three stanzas of this lay in YBL. (four in LU.) are found,, 
with shght changes, in the lay on page i72fl. 
14. ..14 LU. and YBL. 1732. 

The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain 171 

V. 2307. his heart in his breast. ^ For truly it must have been that 
Cuchulain could not suffer the treacherous blows and the 
violence of Loch Mor the warrior, and he called for the Gae 
Bulgae from Laeg son of Riangabair. And the charioteer 
sent the Gae Bulga down the stream and Cuchulain made 
it ready. And when Loch heard that, he gave a lunge down 
with his shield, so that he drove it over two-thirds deep 
into the pebbles and sand and gravel of the ford. And then 
Cuchulain let go the Barbed-spear upwards, so as to strike 
Loch over the border of his hauberk and the rim of his 
shield. 1 2 And it pierced his body's covering, for Loch wore 
a horn skin when fighting with a man,^ 3 so that his farther 
side was pierced clear after his heart had been thrust through 
in his breast. 3 

* " That is enough now," spake Loch ; "I am smitten 
by that.* ^ For thine honour's sake ^ ® and on the truth 
of thy valour and skill in arms,® grant me a boon now, O 
Cuchulain," said Loch. " What boon askest thou ? " 
" Tis no boon of quarter nor a prayer of cowardice that I 
make of thee," said Loch. " But fall back a step from me 
■^ and permit me to rise,' that it be on my face to the east I fall 
and not on my back to the west toward the warriors of Erin, 
to the end that no man of them shall say, ^ if I fall on my 
back,^ it was in retreat or in flight I was before thee, for 
fallen I have by the Gae Bulga ! " " That will I do," an- 
swered Cuchulain, " for 'tis a ^ true ^ warrior's prayer that 
thou makest." 

And Cuchulain stepped back, ^° so that Loch fell on his 
face, and his soul parted from his body and Laeg despoiled 
him.i° 11 Cuchulain cut off his head then.^^ Hence cometh 

1-1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 2.. .2 lu ^nd YBL. 1735-1736. 

'•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 4. ..4 Eg. 93. 

^•••^ Stowe. *•••« Eg. 93. 

'•••' Stowe. ^■•■^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

»...» Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 10. ..10 gg g^ and H. 2. 17. 

H...11 Lu^ fo. 77a, in the margin. 

172 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2314. the name the ford bears ever since, namely Ath Traged 
('Foot-ford') in Cenn Tire Moir ('Great Headland'). 
1 It was then they broke their terms of fair fight that day 
with Cuchulain, when five men went against him at one 
time, namely the two Cruaid, the two Calad and Derothor. 
All alone, Cuchulain killed them. Hence cometh Coicsius 
Focherda (' Fochard's Fortnight ') and Coicer Oengoirt 
(' Five Warriors in one Field '). Or it may be, fifteen days 
Cuchulain passed in Fochard and it is hence cometh Coicsius 
Focherda on the Tain.^ 

And deep distress possessed Cuchulain that day ^ more 
than any other day ^ for his being all alone on the Tain, 
* confronting four of the five grand provinces of Erin,^ * and 
he sank into swoons and faints.* Thereupon Cuchulain 
enjoined upon Laeg his charioteer to go to the men of 
Ulster, that they should come to defend their drove. ^ And, 
on rising, this is what he said : ^ e ** Good, O Laeg, get thee 
to Emain to the Ulstermen, and bid them come hence- 
forward to look after their drove for I can defend their 
fords no longer. For surely it is not fair fight nor equal 
contest for any man for the Morrigan to oppose and over- 
power him and Loch to wound and pierce him." * And 
weariness of heart and weakness overcame him, and he 
gave utterance to a lay : — 

" Rise, O Laeg, arouse the hosts. 
Say for me in Emain strong : 
I am worn each day in fight. 
Full of wounds, and bathed in gore! 

" My right side and eke my left : 
Hard to say which suffers worse; 
Fingin's^ hand hath touched them not. 
Stanching blood with strips of wood ! 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 1739-1743. 

« Literally ' repentance.' 2... 2 stowe. ^•••' Stowe. 

^•••4 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^•••^ Eg. 93. 

*•••« Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

* Physician to King Conchobar, 

The Combat of Loch and Cuchulain 175 

" Bring this word to Conchobar dear, 
I am weak, with wounded sides. 
Greatly has he changed in mien, 
Dechtird's fond, rich-trooped son ! 

" I alone these cattle guard, 
Leave them not, yet hold them not. 
Ill my plight, no hope for me, 
Thus alone on many fords! 

" Showers of blood rain on my arms. 
Full of hateful wounds am I. 
No friend comes to help me here. 
Save my charioteer alone ! 

" Few make music here for me, 
Joy I've none in single horn. 
When the mingled trumpets sound,* 
This is sweetest from the drone! 

" This old saying, ages old : — 
' Single log gives forth no flame ; ' 
Let there be a two or three. 
Up the firebrands all will blaze ! 

" One sole log bums not so well 
As when one burns by its side. 
Guile can be employed on one ; 
Single mill-stone doth not grind ! 

" Hast not heard at every time, 
' One is duped ' ? — 'tis true of me. 
That is why I cannot last 
These long battles of the hosts ! 

" However small a host may be. 
It receives some thought and pains; 
Take but this : its daily meat 
On one fork is never cooked ! 

" Thus alone I've faced the host. 
By the ford in broad Cantire ; 
Many came, both Loch and Badb, 
As foretold in ' Regomain ! ' * 

" Loch has mangled my two thighs ; 
Me the grey-red wolf hath bit ; 
Loch my sides « has wounded sore. 
And the eel has dragged me down ! 

" With my spear I kept her off; 
I put out the she-wolf's eye ; 

• Following Windisch's emended reading of LL.. 

* See above, page i68, note •. 
« Literally, ' Hver.' 

174 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W 2^71 ^^^ ^ broke her lower leg. 

At the outset of the strife ! 

"Then when Laeg sent Aife's spear, « 
Down the stream — like swarm of bees — 
That sharp deadly spear I hurled. 
Loch, 1 Mobebuis' ^ son, fell there ! 

" Will not Ulster battle give 
To Ailill and Eocho's lass,^ 
While I linger here in pain. 
Full of wounds and bathed in blood ? 
*LL. fo. 75b. *" Tell the splendid Ulster chiefs 

They shall come to guard their drove. 
Maga's sons" have seized their kine 
And have portioned them all out ! 

" Fight on fight — though much I vowed, 
I have kept my word in all. 
For pure honour's sake I fight ; 
'Tis too much to fight alone ! 

" Vultures joyful at the breach 
In Ailill's and in Medb's camp. 
Mournful cries of woe are heard ; 
On Murthemne's plain is grief! 

" Conchobar comes not out with help ; 
In the fight, no troops of his. 
Should one leave him thus alone, 
Hard 'twould be his rage to tell ! 

1 " Men have almost worn me out 
In these single-handed fights; 
Warrior's deeds I cannot do. 
Now that I must fight alone ! " ^ 

^Although Cuchulain spoke thus, he had no strength for 
Laeg to leave him.^ 

This then is the Combat of Loch Mor (' the Great ') son 
of Mofemis against Cuchulain on the Driving of the Kine 
of Cualnge. 

« That is, the 'barbed' spear. ^--^ Reading with MS. Stowe. 

* That is, Medb. 

* That is, the followers of Ailill. 

^•••^ LU. page 64, note 5, edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe. 
*"-2 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 


2 Then were five men sent against Cuchulain on the morrow 
to contend with him and he killed them, so that they fell 
by his hand, and * the Five of Cenn Cursighi ' was their 
iV. 2400. name. 2 Then it was that Medb despatched six men at 
one and the same time to attack Cuchulain, to wit : Traig 
(' Foot ') and Dorn (' Fist ') and Dernu (' Palm '), Col (' Sin ') 
and Accuis " (* Curse ') and Erais^ (* Heresy '), three dniid- 
men and three druid- women, ^ their three wives. ^ Cuchu- 
lain attacked them, * the six of them, and struck off their 
six heads,* so that they fell at his hands ^on this side of 
Ath Tire Moire (' Big Land's Ford') at Methe and Cethe.^ 
* Then it was that Fergus demanded of his sureties that 
fair-dealing should not be broken with Cuchulain. And 
it was there that Cuchulain was at that time,* ^ that is, at 
Delga Murthemni. Then Cuchulain killed Fota in his field, 
Bomailce on his ford, Salach in his homestead, Muine in his 
fort, Luar in Lethbera, Fertoithle in Toithle. These are 
the names of these lands forever, every place in which each 
man of them fell.^ 

Forasmuch as covenant and terms of single combat had 

I been broken with Cuchulain, Cuchulain took his sling in 

hand that day and began to shoot at the host from Delga 
(' the Little Dart ') in the south, ® in Murthemne.^ Though 

^•••1 This heading is suppUed by Windisch. 2... 2 gg g^ 

« LU. 1764, H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93 have for this, Mebul, ' Shame.' 
»-3 LU. 1767. 4. ..4 Stowe. 6-5 LU. 1766-1767. 

«•••« LU. and YBL. 1759-1760. '•••' LU. 1761-1765. 

*•••* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 


176 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2406. numerous were the men of Erin on that day, not one of 
them durst turn his face southwards ^ towards Cuchulain, 
towards the side where he was ^ ^ between Delga and the 
sea, 2 whether dog, or horse, or man. ^So that he slew an 
hundred warriors till came the bright hour of sunrise on 
the morrow.^ 

1-1 Stowe. *-2 LU. and YBL. 1745. 

3... 3 Eg_ g^ and H. 2. 17. 



. 2410. 2 Great weariness came over Cuchulain after that night, 
and a great thirst, after his exhaustion. 2 Then it was 
that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, came from the 
fairy dweUings, in the guise of an old hag, ^ with wasted 
knees, long-legged,^ * blind and lame,* engaged in milk- 
ing a ^ tawny,^ three-teated ^ milch ® cow before the 
eyes of Cuchulain." And for this reason she came in this 
fashion, that she might have redress from Cuchulain. 
For none whom Cuchulain ever wounded recovered there- 
from without himself aided in the healing. Cuchulain, 
maddened with thirst, begged her for a milking. She gave 
him a milking of one of the teats ' and straightway Cuchu- 
lain drank it.' ** May this be a cure in time for me, ^ old 
crone," quoth Cuchulain, " and the blessing of gods and of 
non-gods upon thee!" said he;® and one of the queen's 
eyes became whole thereby. He begged the milking of 
* another ® teat. ^^ She milked the cow's second teat and ^^ 
gave it to him and ^^he drank it and said,^^ ** May she 
straightway be sound that gave it." ^^ xhen her head was 
healed so that it was whole. ^^ jje begged a third drink 

1—1 LU. fo. 77a, in the margin. ^—^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

8...8 Eg. 93. 4.. .4 LU. and YBL. 1748. 

6... 6 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

«•••• Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. « Reading fiadnaisse. 

'•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^...s Eg. 93. 

»•••» Stowe. ^®—" Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

11.. .11 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 12. ..12 lu. and YBL. 1753. 

177 N 

178 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2418. ^ of the hag.^ ^ She milked the cow's third teat ^ and gave 
him the milking of the teat ^ and he drank it.^ "A 
blessing on thee of gods and of non-gods, O woman ! * Good 
is the help and succour thou gavest me." * ^ And her 
leg was made whole thereby.^ ® Now these were their 
gods, the mighty folk : and these were their non-gods, the 
folk of husbandry.* And the queen was healed 'forth- 
with. ' ^ " Well, Cuchulain, ^ ^ thou saidst to me," 
spake the Morrigan, " I should not get healing ^^ nor suc- 
cour 1° from thee forever." ** Had I known it was thou," 
Cuchulain made answer, " I would never have healed thee." 
Or, it may be Drong Conculainn (' Cuchulain' s Throng') 
on Tarthesc is the name of this tale in the Reaving of the 
Kine of Cualnge.' 

11 Then it was she alighted in the form of a royston crow 
on the bramble that grows over Grelach Dolair (* the Stamp- 
ing-ground of Dolar') in Mag Murthemni. "Ominous is 
the appearance of a bird in this place above all," quoth 
Cuchulain. Hence cometh Sg^ nah Einchi (* Crow's Bram- 
ble') as a name of Murthemne.^^ 

Then Medb ordered out the hundred ^^ armed ^^ warriors 
^^ of her body-guard ^^ at one and the same time to assail 
Cuchulain. Cuchulain attacked them all, so that they fell 
by his hand i^at AthCeit Cuil^C Ford of the First Crime ').i* 
"It is a dishonour for us that our people are slaughtered 
in this wise," quoth Medb. " It is not the first destruction 
that has befallen us from that same man," replied Ailill. 
Hence Cuilenn Cind Duni (' The Destruction of the Head 

^•••^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 -^g g^ g^j^^j n 2. 17. 

8... 3 Eg. g^ and H. 2. 17. *•••* H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 
5... 5 LU. and YBL. 1755. 

6. ..6 A gloss, incorporated in the text of LL., LU., YBL., Stowe, 
H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 

'•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^•••^ Eg. 93. 

»•••» LU. and YBL. 1 755-1 758. i»-i° Eg. 93. 

11. ..11 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 12.. .12 gg g^ and H. 2. 17. 

13. ..13 LU. 1768. 14-1* LU. 1769. 

The Healing of the Morrigan 179 

2426. of the Dun ') is henceforth the name of the place where they 
were,^ the mound whereon Medb and Ailill tarried that 
night. ^ Hence Ath Cro (' Gory Ford') is the name of the 
ford where they were, * and Glass Cro (' River of Gore ') the 
name of the stream.* And fittingly, too, because of the 
abundance of gore and blood that went with the flow of the 

1...1 Eg. 93 and H. 2, 17. 

*...2 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17, and, similarly, LU. 1771. 



W. 2431. 1 That night ^ the warriors of four of the five grand provinces 
of Erin pitched camp and made their station in the place 
called Breslech Mor (' the Great Rout ') in the Plain of Mur- 
themne. Their portion of cattle and spoils they sent on 

*LL. fo. 76a. before them to the south to the cow-stalls of Ulster.* Cuchu- 
lain took station at Ferta (* the Gravemound ') at Lerga 
{'the Slopes') hard by them. And his charioteer kindled 
him a fire on the evening of that night, namely Laeg son 
of Riangabair. Cuchulain saw far away in the distance the 
fiery glitter of the bright-golden arms over the heads of 
four of the five grand provinces of Erin, in the setting of the 
sun in the clouds of evening. Great anger and rage pos- 
sessed him at their sight, because of the multitude of his 
foes, because of the number of his enemies ^ and opponents, 
and because of the few that were to avenge his sores and his 
wounds upon them.^ 

3 Then Cuchulain arose and ^ he grasped his two spears 
and his shield and his sword. He shook his shield and 
brandished his spears and wielded his sword and sent out 
the hero's shout from his throat, so that the fiends and 
goblins and sprites of the glens and demons of the air gave 
answer for the fearfulness of the shout *that he lifted on 

1-1 Eg. 93- '•••' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

3---3 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

*•••* Translating from Stowe, H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 


The Great Rout on the Plain of Murthemne i8i 

2444. high,* until Nemain, ^ which is Badb,^ brought confusion on 
the host. The warriors of the four provinces of Erin made 
such a clangour of arms with the points of their spears and 
their weapons that an hundred ^ strong, stout-sturdy ^ 
warriors of them fell dead that night of fright and of heart- 
break in the middle of the camp and quarters ^ of the men 
of Erin at the awfulness of the horror and the shout which 
Cuchulain hfted on high.^ 

As Laeg stood there he descried something : A single man 
coming from the north-eastern quarter athwart the camp 
of the four grand provinces of Erin making directly for 
him. " A single man here cometh towards us now, Cucu- 
can," cried Laeg. " But what manner of man is he ? " 
Cuchulain asked. " Not hard to say," * Laeg made answer.* 
" A great, well-favoured man, then. Broad, close-shorn 
hair upon him, and yellow and curly his back hair. A green 
mantle wrapped around him. A brooch of white silver 
in the mantle over his breast. A kirtle of silk fit for a king^ 
with red interweaving of ruddy gold he wears trussed up 
on his fair skin and reaching down to his knees. ^ A great 
one-edged sword in his hand.^ A black shield with hard 
rim of silvered bronze thereon. A five-barbed spear in 
his hand. A pronged bye-spear beside it. Marvellous, in 
sooth, the feats and the sport and the play that he makes. 
But him no one heeds, nor gives he heed to any one. ® No 
one shows him courtesy nor does he show courtesy to any 
one,^ like as if none saw him in the camp of the four 
grand provinces of Erin.'' " In sooth, O fosterhng," 
answered Cuchulain, "it is one of my friends of fairy 
kin ' that comes ' to take pity upon me, because they know 
the great distress wherein I am now all alone against the 
four grand provinces of Erin on the Plunder of the Kine of 

^•••^ Stowe, and LL., in the margin. 2.. .2 gg^ g^ and H. 2. 17. 
3...3 Eg. 93, 4...4 Eg. 93- • ' Of gold,' Eg. 93- 

^-'^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. «•••« Stowe. '•••' Stowe, 

i82 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2463. Cualnge, ^ killing a man on the ford each day and fifty 
each night, for the men of Erin grant me not fair fight nor 
the terms of single combat from noon of each day." ^ 

Now in this, Cuchulain spoke truth. When the young 
warrior was come up to Cuchulain he bespoke him and 
condoled with him ^ for the greatness of his toil and the 
length of time he had passed without sleep. 2 3 " 7^5 i^ 
brave of thee, O Cuchulain," quoth he. "It is not much, 
at all," replied Cuchulain. " But I will bring thee help," 
said the young warrior. " Who then art thou ? " asked 
Cuchulain. " Thy father from Faery am I, even Lug 
son of Ethliu." " Yea, heavy are the bloody wounds 
upon me ; let thy healing be speedy." ^ " Sleep then 
awhile, O Cuchulain," said the young warrior, " thy heavy 
fit of sleep by Ferta in Lerga ('the Gravemound on the 
Slopes ') till the end of three days and three nights and I 
will oppose the hosts during that time." * He examined 
each wound so that it became clean. Then he sang him 
the * men's low strain ' till Cuchulain fell asleep withal. 
It was then Lug recited * ^ the Spell-chant of Lug.^ 

Accordingly Cuchulain slept his heavy fit of sleep at 
' the Gravemound on the Slopes ' till the end of three 
days and three nights. And well he might sleep. Yet 
as great as was his sleep, even so great was his weariness. 
For from the Monday before Samain" ('Summer-end') 
even to the Wednesday after Spring-beginning,* Cuchu- 
lain slept not for all that space, except for a brief snatch 
after mid- day, leaning against his spear, and his head on his 

^•••^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^---^ Stowe. 

3---3 LU. 1803-1807, and, similarly, Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

*•••* LU. 1810-1811. 

6--5 LU. fo. 78a, in the margin ; also in H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 

« Hallowtide, the first of November and the beginning of 

^ I.e. Candlemas. Stowe contains a Christian addition : ' to the 
feast of Brigit ; ' that is, the first of February. 

The Great Rout on the Plain of Murthemne 183 

^ 2475. fist, and his fist clasping his spear, and his spear on his knee,* ♦LL. fo. 76I 
but hewing and cutting, slaying and destroying four of the 
five grand provinces of Erin during that time. 

Then it was that the warrior ^ from Faery ^ laid plants 
from the fairy-rath and healing herbs and put a healing 
charm into the cuts and stabs, into the sores and gaping 
wounds of Cuchulain, so that Cuchulain recovered during 
his sleep without ever perceiving it. 

1-1 LU. 1826. 



W. 2482. That was the time the youths came out of the north from 
Emain Macha ^ to the help of Cuchulain.^ Thrice fifty boys 
of the sons of the kings of Ulster, accompanying FoUomain, 
Conchobar's son, and three battles they offered to the hosts, 
so that thrice their number fell and the youths also fell, 
save Conchobar*s son FoUomain. FoUomain vowed that 
never tiU the very day of doom and of life would he return 
to Emain unless he should bring Ailill's head with him to- 
gether with the diadem of gold that was on it. That was 
no easy thing for him to achieve, for the two sons of Bethe 
son of Ban — the two sons of Aihll's foster-mother and foster- 
father 2 to whom King Ailill's diadem had been entrusted ^ — 
attacked and wounded ^ FoUomain, ^ so- that he fell by their 
hands. This then is the Massacre of the youths of Ulster 
and of FoUomain son of Conchobar. 

Touching Cuchulain, he remained in his sound, heavy 
sleep till the end of three days and three nights at the * Grave- 
mound on the Slopes.' Thereafter Cuchulain arose from 
his sleep. He passed his hand over his face and he became 
as a wild * wheel- thunder (?) from his crown to the ground, 
and he felt his courage strengthened, and he would have 

« The LU. version of this episode was given above under XIIe, 
page 143. 

1—1 Stowe. 2.. .2 Eg g^ and H. 2. 17. »—» Eg. 93. 

• Literally, ' crimson.' 


The Slaughter of the Youths of Ulster 185 

2497* been able to go into an assembly or on a march or to a 
tryst with a woman or to an ale-house or into one of the 
chief assemblies of Erin. ** How long am I asleep now, 
young warrior ? '* Cuchulain asked. " Three days and 
three nights/' the young warrior made answer. ** Woe 
is me for that ! " quoth Cuchulain. " Why so ? " asked 
the young warrior. " For that the hosts have not been 
attacked in that time," answered Cuchulain. *' Nay, not 
so were they spared," the young warrior made answer. " I 
would fain inquire who then attacked them?" Cuchu- 
lain asked. " The youths came hither out of the north 
from Emain Macha, thrice fifty boys accompanying FoUo- 
main, Conchobar's son, and they the sons of the kings of 
Ulster. And three battles they offered the hosts in the 
space of the three days and three nights wherein thou wast 
till now asleep, and thrice their number are fallen at their 
hands and the youths themselves are fallen except Folio- 
main ^ alone, 1 Conchobar's son. And FoUomain vowed 
that never till the very day of doom and of life ^ would he 
return ^ north ^ to Emain Macha till he carried off Aihll's 
head with the diadem of gold which was on it. Howbeit 
not such was his luck, for he fell at the hands of the two 
sons of Beth^ son of Ban, after engaging in battle with 
them." 3 

" Alas, that I was not * there ^ in my strength ! " 
cried Cuchulain ; "for had I been in my strength the 
youths would not have fallen, as now they have, and 
FoUomain would not have perished." " But this avow, 
O Cucan,"" ^said the young warrior;^ "it is no re- 
proach to thine honour and no disgrace to thy valour." 
" Bide here this night with us, young warrior," said 
Cuchulain, " that together we avenge the youths on the 
hosts." " Nay then, I may not tarry," answered the 

*— 1 Eg. 93. 8—2 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 3.. .3 stowe. 

*••* Stowe. « A pet name for Cuchulain. *'"5 Eg. 93. 

1 86 Tain B6 Ciialnge 

W. 2515. young warrior. ^ " Why so ? " asked Cuchulain. " Easy 
to say," replied the young warrior ; ^ "for however prodi- 
gious the deeds of valour and skill in arms one may perform 
in thy company, not on him will fall the glory nor the honour 
nor the fame but on thyself. For this reason will I not 
tarry with thee, but do thou thyself try thy feats of arms 
2 and the strength of thy hands ^ alone on the hosts, for not 
with them is the power over thy life on this occasion." 

3 Then the young warrior from Faery went from him 
and they knew not what way he had gone. " Good, O my 
master Laeg," said Cuchulain; " together we will go to 
avenge the youths on the hosts." " I will go with thee," 
Laeg made answer.^ ** And the scythed chariot, my friend 
Laeg," said Cuchulain. " Canst thou get it ready ? If 
thou canst get it ready and hast its equipment, make it 
ready, and if its equipment is not at hand, make it not 

1-..1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 gg g^ ^n,^ H. 2. 17. 

^•••3 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 



2525- Thereupon the charioteer arose and donned his yeoman's 

suit for charioteering. Of this * yeoman's suit for charioteer- *LL. fo. 77a. 
ing, this is what he put on him : His soft kirtle of skin 
which was hght and airy, which was smooth and sparkUng, 
which was stitched and of buckskin, so that it hindered 
not the movements of his arms outside. Over that he put 
outside an over-mantle of raven's feathers, which Simon 
Magus had made ^ as a gift ^ ^ for Darius ^ 3 Nero, ^ king 
of the Romans. Darius bestowed it upon Conchobar ; Con- 
chobar gave it to Cuchulain ; Cuchulain presented it to 
*Laeg son of Riangabair,* his charioteer. The same 
charioteer took the crested, plated, four-bordered battle-cap 
with variety of every colour and every figure, reaching 
5 down 5 over the middle of his shoulders behind. It was 
an adornment for him and not an encumbrance. With 
his hand he placed the red-yellow frontlet — like one red- 
golden strip of glowing gold smelted over the edge of an 
anvil — on his forehead as a token of charioteering, to 
distinguish him from his master. He opened the hobbles 
that fastened his steeds and grasped his gold-mounted 
goad in his right hand. In his left hand he seized the lines, 
that is, the bridle-reins of his horses for restraining his 
steeds before performing his charioteering. 

1-..1 Eg. 93. 2...2 stowe and LU. 1874. 

'•••3 H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93, instead of, ' Darius.* 

4...4 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^---^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 


i88 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2542. He next threw the iron-sheathed gold-bedecked coats 
of mail over his horses, so that they covered them from fore- 
head to forehand. ^ The chariot was ^ 2 studded with^ 
dartlets, lancelets, spearlets, and hardened spits, so that 
every portion of the frame bristled with points in that 
chariot and every corner and end and point and face of that 
chariot was a passage of laceration. 

Then cast he a spell of concealment over his horses and 
over his fellow, so that they were not visible to any one in 
the camp, while all in the camp were visible to them, ^ and 
over this veil of protection he wounded each one and 
through it and behind it.^ Well indeed was it that he cast 
that charm, for on that day the charioteer had to perform 
the three gifts of charioteership, namely leaping over a 
cleft in the ranks, unerring driving, and the handling of the 

Then ^ arose * the champion and battle- warrior and the 
instrument of Badb's corpse-fold" among the men of the 
earth," Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, and he donned his 
war-dress of battle and fight and combat. To that war- 
dress of battle and fight and combat which he put about 
him belonged seven and twenty' waxed, board-like, 
equally close skin-tunics which were girded by cords and 
swathings and ropes on his fair skin, to the end that his 
wit and reason might not become deranged when the 
violence of his nature came over him. 

Over him he put on the outside his battle-girdle of a 
champion, of tough, tanned, stout leather cut from the fore- 
quarters of seven ox-hides of yearhngs, so that it reached 
from the slender parts of his waist to the stout part under 

1--1 There is a gap in the MS., and these words are supplied from 
the context. 

2. ..2 Eg, 93 and H. 2. 17. ^•■■^ Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 
* That is, the piled up bodies of the slain. 
*--4 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. « 'Of Erin,' Eg. 93. 

^ ' Eight and twenty,' Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

The Scythed Chariot 189 

2562. his arm-pits. He was used to wear it to keep off spears and 
points and irons and lances and arrows. For in like manner 
they would bound back from it as if from stone or rock or 
horn they rebounded. Then he took his silken, glossy 
trews with their band of spotted pale-gold against the soft 
lower parts of his loins. His brown, well-sewn kilt of brown 
leather from the shoulders of four ox-hides of yearlings, 
with his battle-girdle of cow-skins, he put underneath over 
the shining silken trews on the outside, ^ so that it covered 
him from the slender part of his waist to the thick part of 
his thighs and reached up to the battle-belt of the hero.^ 
Then the king-hero * ^ and king- warrior ^ seized his battle- *LL. fo. 77a. 
arms of battle and fight and combat. This is what be- 
longed to those warlike weapons of battle : He took his 
eight little swords together with the bright-faced, tusk- 
hilted straightsword ^ along with his quiver ; ^ he took 
his eight little spears besides his five-pronged spear ; he 
took his eight little darts together with his javelin with 
its walrus-tooth ornaments ; he took his eight little shafts 
along with his play-staff ; he took his eight shields for 
feats together with his dark-red bent-shield, whereon a 
show-boar could lie in its hollow boss, with its very sharp, 
razor-like, keen- cutting, hard * iron * rim all around it, so 
that it would cut a hair against the stream because of its 
sharpness and fineness and keenness. When the young 
warrior would perform the edge-feat withal, it was the 
same whether he cut with his shield or his spear or his 
sword. Next he put round his head his crested war-helm 
of battle and fight and combat, ^wherein were four car- 
buncle-gems on each point and each end to adorn it,^ where- 
out was uttered the cry of an hundred young warriors with 
the long-drawn wail from each of its angles and comers. 

1...1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. «— « Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

3--3 LU. 1914. 4—* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

6... 6 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

igo Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2583. For this was the way that the fiends, the gobhns and the 
sprites of the glens and the demons of the air screamed 
before and above and around him, what time he went forth 
for the shedding of blood of heroes and champions,^ exult- 
ing in the mighty deeds wrought underneath it.^ His 
veil of concealment was thrown over him then, of raiment 
f rom Tir Tairngire (' the Land of Promise') which had been 
brought to him 2 as a gift ^ by Manannan son of Ler (' the 
Sea') from the king of Tirna Sorcha (' the Land of Light '), 
3 his foster-father in magic. ^ * His fair, purple-red fan was 
placed in front of his face. Past it and through it and over 
it everything was visible to him and no one wounded him 
past it nor through it nor over it.* 

Then took place the first twisting-fit ^ and rage ^ of 
® the royal hero ® Cuchulain, so that he made a terrible, 
many-shaped, wonderful, unheard of thing of himself. 
His flesh trembled about him like a pole against the torrent 
or like a bulrush against the stream, every member and 
every joint and every point and every knuckle of him 
from crown to ground. He made a mad whirling-feat of 
his body within his hide. His feet and his shins and his 
knees slid so that they came behind him. His heels and 
his calves and his hams shifted so that they passed to the 
front. The muscles of his calves moved so that they came 
to the front of his shins, so that each huge knot was the size 
of a soldier's balled fist. He stretched the sinews of his 
head so that they stood out on the nape of his neck, 
and as large as the head of a month- old child was each 
of the hill-like lumps, huge, incalculable, vast, immeasur- 

He next made a ruddy bowl of his face and his counten- 
ance. He gulped down one eye into his head so that it 

1...1 Eg, 93 and H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 gg^ g^ ^nd H. 2. 17. 

'•••3 Stowe and LU. 1927. *•••* Eg. 93. 

*...5 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. •••••^Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

The Scythed Chariot 191 

2603. would be hard work if a wild crane succeeded in drawing it 
out on to the middle of his cheek from the rear of his skull. 
Its mate sprang forth till it came out on his cheek/ so that 
it was the size of a five-fist kettle, and he made a red berry 
thereof out in front of his head. ^ His mouth was distorted 
monstrously ^ and twisted up to his ears.^ He drew the 
cheek from the jaw-bone so that the interior of his throat 
was to be seen. His lungs and his lights stood out so that 
they fluttered in his mouth and his gullet. He struck a 
mad lion's blow with the upper jaw ^ on its fellow ^ so that as 
large as a wether's fleece of a three year old was each * red,* 
fiery flake ^ which his teeth forced ^ into his mouth from 
his gullet. There was heard the loud clap of his heart 
against his breast like the yelp of a howling bloodhound 
or like a lion going among bears.* There were seen the *LL. fo. 78a. 
** torches of the Badb," and the rain clouds of poison, 
and the sparks of glowing-red fire, ^ blazing and flashing ® 
in hazes and mists over his head with the seething of the truly- 
wild wrath that rose up above him. His hair bristled all 
over his head like branches of a redthorn thrust into a gap in a 
great hedge. Had a king's apple-tree laden with royal fruit 
been shaken around him, scarce an apple of them all would 
have passed over him to the ground, but rather would an 
apple have stayed stuck on each single hair there, for 
the twisting of the anger which met it as it rose from his 
hair above him. The Lon Laith (' Champion's Light ') stood 
out of his forehead, so that it was as long and as thick as a 
warrior's whetstone, 'so that it was as long as his nose, 
till he got furious handHng the shields, thrusting out the 
charioteer, destroying the hosts.' As high, as thick, as 
strong, as steady, as long as the sail-tree of some huge 


»...! Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. »•••» Stowe. 

^•••3 Reading with Stowe. *•••* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

*•••* Reading with Eg. 93. •— • A kenning for 'swords.' 

8...« Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. '— ' LU. 1958-1959. 

192 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2623. prime ship was the straight spout of dark blood which arose 
right on high from the very ridgepole of his crown, so that 
a black fog of witchery was made thereof like to the smoke 
from a king's hostel what time the king comes to be minis- 
tered to at nightfall of a winter's day. 

When now this contortion had been completed in Cuchu- 
lain, then it was that the hero of valour sprang into his 
scythed war-chariot, with its iron sickles, its thin blades, 
its hooks and its hard spikes, with its hero's fore-prongs, 
with its opening fixtures, with its stinging nails that were 
fastened to the poles and thongs and bows and lines of the 
chariot, ^lacerating heads and bones and bodies, legs and 
necks and shoulders.^ 

It was then he delivered ^ over his chariot * the thunder-feat 
of a hundred and the thunder-feat of two hundred and 
the thunder-feat of three hundred and the thunder-feat 
of four hundred, and he ceased at the thunder-feat of five 
hundred. For he did not deem it too much that such a 
great number should fall by his hand at his first onset and 
first battle- assault on four of the five grand provinces of 
Erin, ^ while avenging on them the slaughter of the youths 
and of FoUomain son of Conchobar.^ In such wise fared 
he forth for to seek his foes, and he drove his chariot in a 
wide circuit round about the hosts of the four grand prov- 
vinces of Erin. And he led his chariot a heavy way. The 
chariot's iron wheels sank into the ground so that * the earth 
dug up by the iron wheels * might have served for a dun 
and a fortress, so did the chariot's iron wheels cut into the 
ground. For in like manner the clods and boulders and 
rocks and the clumps and the shingle of the earth arose 
up outside on a height with the iron wheels. It was for 
this cause he made this circling ^ hedge ^ of the Badb 

1...1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 2. ..2 Eg. 93 

3"-3 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. *---4 Stowe. 

^•••5 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

The Scythed Chariot 193 

2646. round about the hosts of four of the five grand provinces of 
Erin, that they might not escape him nor get away be- 
fore he would come on them to press a reprisal for the 
boys. And he went into the midst of the ranks and 
mowed down huge walls of the corpses of his foes ^ and 
enemies and opponents ^ in a great circle round about the 
host. And he made the onslaught of a foe am.ongst foes 
upon them, so that they fell sole to sole, neck to neck, * arm 
to arm, elbow to elbow, and rib to rib, ^ such was the close- 
ness of their bodies, ^ and there were pools of ruddy blood 
where they moved.^ Thrice again in this manner he circled 
them round, so that he left them in beds of six in a great 
ring around them, even the soles of three to the backs of 
three men in a circle around the camp. Hence Sessrech 
Breslig^ (* Great sixfold Slaughter ')<* is the name of this 
event on the Tain, and it is one of the three unreckonable 
events of the Tain, which were, to wit, Sessrech Breslig^, 
Immslige Glennamnach (' the Mutual Slaying at Glenna- 
main'),andthe battle of Garech * and Ilgarech ; only that *LL. fo. 78b 
here, hound and horse and man were one to him * in the 
great rout on Mag Murthemni that night avenging the 
youths on four of the five grand provinces of Erin.* 

What others say is that Lug son of Ethliu fought on 
Cuchulain's side at the Sessrech BresHgd. 

Their number is not known and it cannot be reckoned 
how many fell there of the rabble rout, but only their 
chiefs have been counted. Here below are their names, to 
wit : — 

The two Cruad, two Calad, two Cir, two Ciar, two Ecell, 
three Cromm, three Cur, three Combirg^, four Feochar, 
four Furachar, four Cassd, four Fota, five Caur, five German, 

1...1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

2—2 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^--^ LU. 1996. 

• Or, ' Ploughland of the Great Slaughter.' 
4. ..4 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

194 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2679. five Cobtach, six Saxan, six Duach, six Dare, ^ six Dun- 
chadh, six Daimiach/ seven Rochad, seven Ronan, seven 
Rurthech, eight Rochlad, eight Rochtad, eight Rindach, 
•eight Corpre,* eight Malach, nine Daigith, nine Dare, 
nine Damach, ten Fiach, ten Fiacach, ten FedHmid. 

Ten and six-score ^ kings, ^ leaders and men of the land,^ 
Cuchulain laid low in the great slaughter on the Plain of 
Murthemne, besides a countless horde of dogs and horses 
and women and boys and children and common folk ; for 
there escaped not a third man of the men of Erin * without 
a wound or a hurt or a blueing or a reddening or a lump or 
a mark or breaking of thigh or of leg or of shinbone, * with- 
out having hip-bone broken or half his skull or an eye hurt, 
or without an enduring mark for the course of his life. ^ And 
he left them then after inflicting that battle upon them, 
without having his blood drawn or wound brought on him- 
self or on his charioteer or on either of his horses.* 

1-1 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 2.. .2 lu ^nd YBL. 2010. 

* ' Nineteen and nine-score,' H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 
3...3 Eg g^ and H. 2. 17. *•••* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. 

*•••« LU., edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe, page 72, note 19. 



2706. *Early 2 the next morning Cuchulain came to observe 
the host and to display his comely, beautiful form to the 
matrons and dames and girls and maidens and poets and 
men of art," for he did not consider it an honour nor becom- 
ing, the 3 wild, ^ proud shape of magic which had been mani- 
fested to them the night before. It was for that then that 
he came to exhibit his comely, beautiful form on that day. 
Truly fair was the youth that came there to display his 
form to the hosts, Cuchulain, to wit son of Sualtaim * son 
of Becfoltach (' Of little possessions ') son of Morfoltach 
('Of great possessions') son of Red Neil macRudhraidi.* 
Three heads of hair he wore ; brown at the skin, blood-red 
in the middle, a golden-yellow crown what thatched it. 
Beautiful was the arrangement of the hair, with three coils 
of hair wound round the nape of his neck, so that like to a 
strand of thread of gold was each thread-like, loose-flowing, 
deep-golden, magnificent, long- tressed, splendid, beauteous- 
hued hair as it fell down over his shoulders. A hundred 
bright-purple windings of gold-flaming red gold at his neck. 
A hundred salmon-coloured (?) cords strung with carbuncles 
as a covering round his head. Four spots on either of his two 
cheeks, even a yellow spot, and a green spot, and a blue spot, 

^•••1 LU. fo. 8ia, in the margin. ^...2 gg g^ ^nd H. 2. 17. 

• A general term for poets, singers, seers and druids. 
8...3 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. *•••* H. 2. 17. 


196 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2722. and a purple spot. Seven jewels of the eye's brilliance was 
either of his kingly eyes. Seven toes to either of his two 
feet. Seven fingers to either of his two hands, with the 
clutch of hawk's claw, with the grip of hedgehog's talon in 
every separate one of them. 

He also put on him that day his fair-day dress. To 
this apparel about him belonged, namely, a beautiful, well- 
fitting, purple, fringed, five-folded mantle. A white brooch 
of ^ silvered bronze or of ^ white silver incrusted with bur- 
nished gold over his fair white breast, as if it were a fuU- 
*LL. fo. 79a. fulgent lantern that eyes of men could not behold * for its 
resplendence and crystal shining. A ^ striped * chest- 
jacket of silk on his skin, fairly adorned with borders and 
braidings and trimmings of gold and silver and silvered 
bronze ; it reached to the upper hem of his dark, brown- 
red warlike breeches of royal silk. A magnificent, brown- 
purple buckler he bore, ^with five wheels of gold on it,^ 
with a rim of pure white silver around it. A gold-hilted 
hammered sword *with ivory guards, raised high at his 
girdle * at his left side. A long grey-edged spear together 
with a trenchant bye-spear for defence, with thongs for 
throwing and with rivets of whitened bronze, alongside him 
in the chariot. Nine heads he bore in one of his hands and 
ten in the other, and these he brandished before the hosts 
in token of his prowess and cunning. ^ This then was a 
night's attack for Cuchulain on the hosts of four of the five 
provinces of Erin.^ Medb hid her face beneath a shelter 
of shields lest Cuchulain should cast at her that day. 

Then it was that the maidens « of Connacht « besought 
the men of Erin to lift them up on the fiat of the shields 
above the warriors' shoulders; 'and the women ^ oi 
Munster* clomb on the men' to behold the aspect of 

1.-1 YBL.2040. 2...2 YBL. 2043. »•••* LU. and YBL. 2045. 

4...* LU. and YBL. 2046. ^•••'^ LU. and YBL. 2050. 

•..•• LU. and YBL. 1205. '•••' LU. and YBL. 2052 

»...» YBL, added later above the line. 

The Appearance of Cuchulain 197 

T. 2746. Cuchulain. For they marvelled at the beautiful, comely 
appearance he showed them that day compared with the 
low, arrogant shape of magic in which they had seen him 
the night before. 



1 And Dubthach's wife prayed to be lifted to regard the 
form of Cuchulain.i Then it was that jealousy, ill-will 
and envy possessed Dubthach Doel (' the Black-tongue * )* 
of Ulster because of his wife ^ in regard to Cuchulain ; for 
he saw his wife climb on the men to get a glimpse of Cuchu- 
lain ; 2 and he counselled the hosts to act treacherously 
towards Cuchulain and to entrap him, even to lay up an 
ambush around him on all sides to the end that he might 
fall by them. And he spake these words : — 

" If this be the Twisted one, 
By him shall men's bodies fall ; 
Shrieks there shall be round the liss ; 
Deeds to tell of shall be wrought ! 

" Stones shall be on graves from him ; 
Kingly martyrs shall increase. 
Not well have ye battle found 
On the slopes with this wild Hound ! 

3 " If this be the Twisted one, 
Men shall soon be slain by him ; 
'Neath his feet shall corpses lie; 
Under bushes mantles white ! ^ 

" Now the Wildman's form I see, 
Nine « heads dangling by his side ; 
Shattered spoils he has, behold ; 
Ten * heads as his treasure great ! 

* This superscription is not found in the MSS. 
1-1 Eg. 93. 

* Literally, * the Chafer (or Scorpion ?).' 
2-2 Stowe. 

'— » Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. * ' Eight,' LU. and YBL. 2060. 

* ' Nine,' LU. and YBL. 2061, H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 


Dubthach's Jealousy 199 

2766. " And your women, too, I see. 

Raise their heads above the lines ; 
I behold your puissant queen 
Makes no move t'engage in fight! 

" Were it mine to give advice, 
Men would be on every side. 
That they soon might end his life ; 
If this be the Twisted one ! " 

Fergus macRoig heard this and he deemed it an outrage 
that Dubthach should counsel how to betray Cuchulain ta 
the hosts. And he reached him a strong, sharp kick with his 
foot away from him, so that Dubthach struck with his mouth 
against the group outside. And Fergus reproached him 
for all the wrongs and iniquities and treachery and shameful 
deeds he had ever done to the Ulstermen of old and anew» 
And then he spake these words : — 

" If this ' Black-tongue ' Dubthach be. 
Let him skulk behind the hosts ; 
No good hath he ever wrought. 
Since he slew the princesses!* 

" Base and foul, the deed he wrought : 
Fiachu, Conchobar's son, he slew. 
No more fair was heard of him : 
Carbrd's death, Fedilmid's son ! 

" Ne'er for Ulster's weal doth aim 
Lugaid's son, Casruba's scion ; * 
Such is how he acts to men : 
Whom he stabs not he incites ! 

" Ulster's exiles it would grieve 
If their beardless boy « should fall. 
If on you come Ulster's troops 
They will make your herds their spoil! 

" Strewn afar your herds will be 
By the rising Ulstermen. 
Tales there'll be of mighty deeds 
That will tell of far-famed queens ! 

• The reference is to the maidens of Emain Macha slain by Dub- 
thach in punishment for the death of the sons of Usnech. 

* That is, Dubthach. « That is, Cuchulain. 

200 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W, 2800. * " Corpses will be under foot/ 

2 Food there'll be at ravens' rests ; ^ 
Bucklers lying on the slopes ; 
Wild and furious deeds increase ! 

3 " I behold just now your wives 
Raise their heads above the ranks. 
I behold your puissant queen 
Moves not to engage in war! ^ 

* *" Valour none nor generous deed 

Comes from Lugaid's craven son ; 
Nor will kings see lances red. 
If this ' Black-tongue ' Dubthach be ! " 

Thus far ' The Scythed Chariot/ <* 

^- 1 LU. and YBL. 2077. 

2"-2 Reading: Betit buind fri brannfossaib. 

3... 3 This quatrain is almost identical with the one translated on 
page 199. 

« A very obscure and fragmentary passage in LU. and YBL. 
(lines 2083-2106, edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe, lacking in 
Eg. 93, Revue Celtique, tome xv, page 204), consisting of a series of 
short strains in rose spoken in turn by Ailill, Medb, Gabran the 
poet, and Fergus, is omitted in the translation. 



2814. Then it was that a very bold young warrior of the Ulstermen 
came nigh the hosts ; his bye-name was Gengus son of 
Oenlam Gabe (' the One-handed Smith '). And he drove the 
hosts before him from Moda Loga, which at that time was 
called Lugmud, to Ath da Fert (* the Ford of the Two 
Gravemounds ') in Sliab Fuait. 2 And he suffered them not 
to go by, but he showered them with stones.^ What scholars 
say is : If Oengus son of Oenlam Gabe had fought them in 
single combat, ^ two- thirds of ^ the host would have fallen 
before that by him in single battle * at Emain Macha.* 
Howbeit it was by no means so that they acted, but they 
attacked him from ambush on every side, till he fell at their 
hands ^ in unequal fight ^ at Ath da Fert in Sliab Fuait. 

1—1 LU. fo. 82a, in the margin. 2. ..2 lu ^nd YBL. 2135-2136. 
»•••» Stowe. *-4 LU. and YBL. 2137. 

••••» LU. and YBL. 2139. 





Then came to them Fiacha Fialdana (' the Generous and 
Intrepid') of the Ulstermen to speak with the son of his 
mother's sister, namely with Mane Andoe (* the Unslow ') 
of the Connachtmen. And thus he came, and Dubthach 
Doel (* the Black Tongue ' ) of Ulster with him. It was in this 
wise that Mane Andoe came, and Doche son of Maga along 
with him. When now Doche macMagach espied Fiacha 
Fialdana, he straightway hurled a spear at him, but so 
that it went through his own friend, through Dubthach 
Doel of Ulster. Then Fiacha Fialdana hurled a spear at 
Doche macMagach, so that it went through his own friend, 
through Mane Andoe of Connacht. Thereupon said the 
men of Erin : "A mishap in throwing," they said, ** is 
what hath happened to the men, for each of them to kill 
his friend and nearest relation." Hence this is entitled 
ImroU Belaig Eoin ('the Misthrow at Bird-pass'). And 
' the Other Misthrow at Bird-pass ' is another name for it. 
^ Or it may be this from which cometh ImroU Belaig 
Eoin: The hosts proceed to Belach Eoin ('Bird-pass'). 
Their two troops wait there. Diarmait macConchobar 
of the Ulstermen comes from the north. " Let a horse- 
man start from you," cries Diarmait, " that Mane may 
come with one man to parley with me, and I will go with 
another man to parley with him." A while thereafter they 

1--1 LU. and YBL. 2114-2128. 


The Misthrow at Belach Eoin 203 

meet. " I am come," says Diarmait, " from Conchobar, 
with commands to Aihll and Medb that they let the cows 
go and make good all the ill they have done here and bring 
hither the bull" from the west to meet the other bull,^ 
to the end that they may encounter, since Medb has pledged 
it." " I will go," says Mane, " to tell them." He takes 
this message to Medb and Ailill. " This cannot be had 
of Medb," Mane reported. " Let us make a fair exchange 
of arms, then," says Diarmait, " if perchance that please th 
thee better." " I am content," replies Mane. Each of 
them casts his spear at the other so that both of them 
die, and hence the name of this place is ImroU Belaig 
Eoin. Their forces rush upon one another. Three-score of 
each force fall. Hence is Ard in Dirma (' the Height of the 
Troop'). 1 

• The ' White-homed.' * The ' Brown of Cualnge.' 



Then said the men of Erin to Tamon the fool that he should 
don the garments of AiliU and the king's golden shawl, and go 
to the ford that was close before them. So he put the garments 
and golden shawl of Ailill upon him. ^ Ailill's people placed 
the king's diadem on the head of Tamon the fool, for Ailill 
dared not wear it himself, ^ and he went on to the ford under 
their eyes. The men of Erin began to scoff and to shout and 
jeer at him. " It is a disguising of Tamon (' a Stump ') for 
thee, O Tamon the fool," they cried, " with the dress and the 
golden shawl of Ailill upon thee ! " When Cuchulain saw 
him, it seemed to him in his ignorance and lack of knowledge 
that it was Ailill himself that was there. And he slung a 
stone from his staff-sling at him so that ^his head was 
broken thereby ^ and Tamon the fool was smitten lifeless 
where he was on the ford. Hence Ath Tamuin (* the Ford 
of a Stump ') 3 is the name of that ford ever since ^ and ' the 
Disguising of Tamon ' * is the name of the tale.* 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 2129. 2-2 LU. and YBL. 2131. 

»-3 Stowe. *•••* Stowe. 




2851. The hosts of the four grand provinces of Erin pitched camp 
and entrenched themselves for that night at the pillar- 
stone in Crich Roiss (' the Borders of Ross'). Then Medb 
called upon the men of Erin for one of them to contend 
and do battle with Cuchulain on the morrow. And every 
one of them spake thus : "It shall not be I ! it shall not 
be I ! " * cried each from his place. ^ " No victim is owing 
from my people, ^ and even if one were it would not be my- 
self whom ye would send as a victim in his stead. ^ 
* I will not be the man to go in his place to fight with Cuchu- 
lain tiU the very day of doom and of life ! " * 

Thereupon Medb summoned Fergus to ^ go forth and ^ 
contend and fight with Cuchulain, ^ to drive him off from 
them on the ford * ' at the early morning-hour ' ^ on 
the morrow,^ for that the men of Erin had failed her ^ to go 
and do battle with him.^ " 111 would it befit me,'* quoth 
Fergus, " to fight with a callow young lad without any 
beard, and mine own disciple, ^^the fosterling of Ulster, ^° 
^^ the foster-child that sat on Conchobar's knee, the lad 
from Craeb Ruad (' Red Branch ')." ^i Howbeit Medb 

1—1 LU. fo. 82b. in the margin. 2.. .2 lU. and YBL. 2141. 

a. ..8 Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17., LU. and YBL. 2142-2143. 

*•••* Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. ^—^ Stowe and H. 2. 17. 

••••• Eg. 93 and H. 2. 17. '•••' Eg. 93. 

"— » H. 2. 17 and Eg. 93. 

»•••» Stowe. i«>-i» H. 2.^17. 11-" Eg. 93- 


2o6 Tain Bo Ciialnge 

W. 2861. murmured sore that Fergus foreswore her combat and 
battle. ^ They filled him with wine till he was heavily 
drunken and then they questioned him about going to the 
combat.^ They bode the night in that place. Early on 
the morrow Fergus arose, ^ since they importuned him 
urgently, ^ 3 and his horses were got ready for him and his 
chariot harnessed ^ and he fared forth to the place of combat 
where Cuchulain was. 

* When now * Cuchulain saw him coming nigh, ^ this is 
what he said : ^ * " Welcome thine arrival and thy coming, 
O my master Fergus," spoke Cuchulain. " Truly given 
we esteem thy greeting," Fergus answered. "It is truly 
given for thee, O Fergus " said Cuchulain ; " and thou shalt 
have a night's lodging here this night." " Success and a 
blessing attend thee, O fosterling ; not for hospitality from 
thee am I come, but to fight and do battle with thee." « 
*LL. fo. 80a. '* A vain surety * is the one wherewith my master Fergus 
comes to me ; for no sword is in the sheath of the great 
staff he bears." It was true what he said. A year before 
this tale," 'before the expedition of the Tain,'' Ailill had 
found Fergus going to a tryst with Medb on the hillside in 
Cruachan and his sword on a ^ branch ^ near by him. And 
Ailill had torn the sword from its sheath and put a wooden 
sword in its stead and vowed he would not restore him 
the sword till came the day of the great battle ^ when 
the men of Erin would clash in the great battle of the Cualnge 
Cattle-raid at Garech and Ilgarech.^ 1° " It is a perilous 
thing for thee to come to a place of fight, O my master 
Fergus, without thy sword." ^° "It matters not to me, 
O fosterling," replied Fergus ; "for had I a sword in this, 
it never would cut thee nor be plied on thee. But, by 

1-1 LU. and YBL. 2145-2146. 

2-2 LU. and YBL. 2147. ^ ••^ Eg. 93. *•••« Stowe. 

^■"^ Stowe. ^•••® Eg. 93. " See above, page 99. '•••' Stowe. 

*•••' Reading with Stowe ; LL. has ' on the slope.' 

»•••» Stowe. 1°-^° Stowe. 

The Battle of Fergus and Cuchulain 207 

2874. the honour and training I bestowed upon thee and the 
Ulstermen and Conchobar bestowed, ^ by the troth of thy 
valour and knighthood ^ I adjure thee, give way before me 
this day in the presence of the men of Erin ! " " Truly I 
am loath ^to do that," ^ answered Cuchulain, "to flee 
before any one man on the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge." " Nay 
then it is not a thing to be taken amiss by thee," said Fergus ; 
" for I in my turn will retreat before thee when thou wilt 
be covered wdth wounds and dripping with gore and pierced 
with holes in the battle of the Tdin. And when I alone shall 
turn in flight ^ before thee, * so will all the men of Erin 
also flee * before thee in like manner." * So zealous was 
Cuchulain to do whatever made for Ulster's weal that 
he had his chariot brought to him, and he mounted his 
chariot and he went in confusion and flight ^ from Fer- 
gus in the presence ^ of the men of Erin. ^ As far as 
Grellach DoUuid (* the Stamping-place at DoUuid ') he fled, 
in order that Fergus might give way before him on the 
day of the battle.^ 'When' the men of Erin saw that, 
^ they were joyful, and what they said was this : ^ " He is 
fled from thee ! He is fled from thee, O Fergus ! " cried 
all. " Pursue him, pursue him ^ quickly,* O Fergus, " 
Medb cried, " that he do not escape thee." " Nay then," 
said Fergus, " I will pursue him no further. ^^ It is not like 
a tryst. Yon fellow is too speedy for me.^^ For however 
little ye may make of the flight I have put him to, none of 
the men of Erin, ^^ not even four of the five provinces of 
Erin^^ could have obtained so much as that of him on the 
Cow-creagh of Cualnge. For this cause, till the men of 
Erin take turns in single combat, I will not engage again 
with this same man." Hence here we have the ^^ ' White ^* 

1...1 Eg. 93. 2. ..2 stowe. 3. ..3 stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. '^•••5 Stowe. 

•— « LU. and YBL. 2154-2155. 7—' Stowe. 

«-8 Stowe. »•••» Stowe. 10-10 LU. and YBL. 2157. 

11...11 Eg. 93. ''-'' Eg. 93- 

2o8 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2891. Battle ' of Fergus ^ on the Tain thus far ; and it is for this 
cause it is called the ' White Battle,' because no ' blood 
on weapons ' " resulted therefrom.^ 2 They continue their 
march past Cuchulain and pitch camp in Crich Roiss.^ 

1-1 Eg. 93. "A traditional tag ; it occurs again, page 216. 
2-2 LU. and YBL. 2158-2159. 



2893. Ferchu Longsech ('the Exile'), ^ a wonderful warrior 
from Loch Ce, outlawed from his land by Ailill and Medb/ 
although of the Connachtmen, was engaged in battle and 
plunder with Ailill and Medb. From the day these came 
to the kingship, there never was a time that he fared to 
their camp or took part in their expeditions or shared in 
their straits or their needs or their hardships, but he was ever 
at their heels, pillaging and plundering their borders and land. 
At that time he sojourned in the eastern part of Mag Ai. 
Twelve** men was his muster. He learned that a single 
man checked and stopped four of the five grand pro- 
vinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the be- 
ginning of Spring, slaying a man on the ford every one of 
those days and a hundred warriors every night. He weighed 
his plan privily with his people. " What better plan could 
we devise ? " quoth he, " than to go and attack yonder man 
that checketh and stoppeth four of the five grand provinces 
of Erin, and bring his head and his arms with us to Ailill 
and Medb ? However great the injuries and wrongs we 
have done to Ailill and Medb, we shall obtain our peace 
therefor, if only that man fall by our hand." ^ He made 
no doubt that if Cuchulain fell through him, the eastern 
territory of Connacht would be his.^ Now this was the 

1-..1 Eg. 93 • ' Thirteen,' LU. and YBL. 2161, and Eg. 93. 
*•••• Eg. 93. 

209 P 

210 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W, 2908. resolve they took, and they proceeded to where Cuchu- 
lain was ^ at Ath Aladh (' Speckled Ford ') on the Plain of 
Murthemne. ^ And when they came, ^ they espied the lone 
warrior and knew that it was Cuchulain.^ It was not fair 
fight nor combat with one they vouchsafed him, but at one 
and the same time the twelve men fell upon him ^ so that 
their spears sank up to their middles into his shield.^ Cu- 
chulain on his part * drew his sword from the sheath of 
the Badb to attack them, and he fell to to cut away their 
weapons and to lighten his shield. Then he * turned on 
them, ^ front and back, to the left and the right, ^ and 
straightway he smote off their twelve heads ; ® and he 
engaged in a furious, bloody and violent battle with Ferchu 
himself, after killing his people. And not long did it avail 
Ferchu thus, for he fell at last by Cuchulain,^ ' and Cu- 
chulain cut off Ferchu's head to the east of the ford.' 
And he set up twelve stones in the earth for them, and he 
put the head of each one of them on its stone and he like- 
wise put Ferchu Longsech's head on its stone. Hence 
Cinnit Ferchon Longsig is ^ henceforth the name of ® the 
place where Ferchu Longsech left his head ^and his 
twelve men theirs and their arms and their trophies,^ to 
wit, Cenn-aitt Ferchon (' the Head-place of Ferchu '). 

»•••' Eg. 93. 

2...2 Eg. 93. 

3...3 Eg. 93. 

*•••* Eg. 93. 

'-^ Eg. 93. 

••••• Eg. 93. 

»...' Eg. 93. 

8-8 Stowe. 

••••• Eg. 93. 



2 Medb despatched Mann son of Muresc son of Dare, of 
the Dommandach, to fight with Cuchulain. Own brothers 
were he and Daman, Ferdiad's father. A man, rough, 
inordinate in eating and sleeping was this Mann. An 
ill-tongued foul-mouthed man like Dubthach Doel (' Black- 
tongue ') of Ulster. A man, stout, mighty, with strength 
of limb like Munremur (* Thick-neck ') son of Gerrcend 
(' Short-head'). A fiery champion like Triscoth, the strong 
man of Conchobar's household. " I will go," said he, 
" and unarmed, and I will grind him between my hands, 
for I consider it no honour nor credit to use arms against a 
beardless madcap such as he." 

Therewith he went to attack Cuchulain. There he 
was, himself and his charioteer on the ford watching 
the host. " A lone warrior approacheth us here," cried 
Laeg to Cuchulain. " What manner of man ? " asked 
Cuchulain. " A dark, black man, strong, bull-like, and 
he unarmed." " Let him go by thee," said Cuchulain. 
At that he comes nigh them. " To fight with thee 
am I come," Mann announced. Therewith they fell 
to wrestling for a long time, and thrice Mann threw 
Cuchulain, till the charioteer incited Cuchulain. " Were 
it the champion's portion thou wast contending for in 

^•••1 LU., fo. 82, in the margin. 

a.. .2 YBL., and, partly, LU. 2163-2181. Here the LU. version 
breaks off, fo. 82b. 


212 Tain Bo Cualnge 

Emain/' spake Laeg, " thou wouldst be all powerful over 
the young bloods in Emain ! " At these words the hero's 
wrath and warrior's rage returned to Cuchulain, so that 
he overcame Mann at the pillar-stone and he fell to pieces 
in morsels. Hence cometh Mag Mandachta (' the Plain of 
Mann's death ').2 



2918. Then was it debated by the men of Erin who would be fit 
to contend and cope with Cuchulain at the morning hour 
early on the next day. What they all said was, that Gala- 
tin Dana (* the Bold') would be the one, with his seven and 
twenty sons and his grandson** Glass macDelga. Thus 
were they : Poison was on every man of them and poison 
on every weapon of their arms ; and not one of them missed 
his throw, and there was no one on whom one of them 
drew blood that, if he succumbed not on the spot, would 
not be dead before the end of the ninth day. Great gifts 
were promised to them for engaging to do battle and to 
contend* 2 with Cuchulain. ^ And they took the matter *ll. fo. 80b, 
in hand, and it should be in the presence of Fergus that 
the covenant would be made. But Fergus refused to have 
part therein, for what they ^ all ^ contended was that they 
would hold it as a single combat, * a combat, to wit, of * 
Calatin Dana and his seven and twenty sons and his grand- 
son Glass macDelga; for their contention was that his 
son was a limb of his limbs and a part of his parts, and 
that to Calatin Dana belonged all that proceeded from his 

Fergus betook himself to his tent and to his people and 
he breathed his sigh of weariness aloud. " Grievous it 

^•••1 The title is taken from the colophon at the end of the chapter. 
• ' Nephew/ Stowe. 2. ..2 stowe. ^...a stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. 



214 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 2035. seems to us, the deed to be done here on the morrow," 
quoth Fergus. *' What deed may that be ? " asked his 
people. " The slaying of Cuchulain," answered Fergus. 
" Alas," said they, " who should kill him ? " " Calatin 
Dana," he replied, " with his seven and twenty sons and 
his grandson Glass macDelga. For this is their nature : 
Poison is on every man of them and poison on every weapon 
of their arms ; and there is no one on whom one of them 
draws blood, that, if he succumb not on the spot, will not 
be dead before the end of the ninth day. And there is no 
one ^ of you ^ that would go and learn for me and be wit- 
ness of the battle and fight and bring me news how Cuchu- 
lain died on whom I would not bestow my blessing and 
armour." " I will go thither," spake Fiachu son of Ferfebe. 
They abode so that night. Early on the morrow Calatin 
Dana arose with his seven and twenty sons and his 
grandson Glass macDelga, and they went forward to where 
Cuchulain was. And there went also Fiachu son of Fer- 
febe. And when Calatin arrived at the place w^here Cuchu- 
lain was, they forthwith hurled their nine and twenty spears, 
and not one of them went past him by a misthrow. Cuchu- 
lain played the edge-feat with his shield, so that all the 
spears sank up to their middles into the shield. But for 
all that theirs was no erring cast, not one of the spears 
was blooded or reddened upon him. Thereupon Cuchulain 
drew 2 his ^ sword from the sheath of the Badb, to cut away 
the weapons and lighten the shield that was on him. While 
thus engaged, they rushed in upon him and delivered their 
nine and twenty right fists at the same time on his head. 
They smote him and curbed him withal, till his face and 
his countenance and visage met the sand and gravel of the 
ford. Cuchulain raised his warrior's shout aloud and his 
cry of unequal combat, so that there was not an Ulsterman 

1—1 Stowe. 2...2 stowe. 

The Combat of Calatin's Children 215 

2962. alive ^ in the camp ^ of those that were not asleep but heard 
it. Then 2 when they all had reached for their swords,- 
came Fiachu son of Ferfebe ^ after them out of the camp,^ 
and he saw what they did and a quahn of * love and * 
the bond of kindred came over him, and ^when he saw 
all their hands raised against Cuchulain, he leaped from 
his chariot and ^ drew his sword from the sheath of the 
Badb and dealt them a blow, so that he cut off their nine 
and twenty right fists from them at one stroke, and they 
all fell backwards from the intensity of the exertion and 
hold which they had. 

Cuchulain raised his head and drew breath and gave a 
sigh of weariness and perceived who it was that had 
come to his aid. " A ready relief, O foster-brother, *what 
thou hast done,'' « said Cuchulain. " Although for thee 
a ready relief," said Fiachu, " yet is it not so for us. 
Even though we are the best division of three thousand 
' of the Clann Rudraige in the camp and station of the men 
of Erin, ' nevertheless this small thing is a breach of cove- 
nant in us men of Ulster. If one of Calatin's children 
reaches the camp,^ we shall all be brought under the mouth 
of spear and of sword, however feeble thou mayst deem 
the blow I struck, if this treason be found in us." "I give 
my word," quoth Cuchulain ; ** so soon as I raise my head 
and draw breath, ^ not a man of them shall reach the camp 
ahve,^ and unless thou thyself tellest the tale not one of 
these ever will tell it ! " 

With that, Cuchulain turned on them, and he fell to 
smiting and hewing them, so that he sent them * from him *LL. fo. 8ra. 
in small disjointed pieces and divided quarters eastwards 
and westwards along the ford. A single man got away 
from him, trusting to his speed while Cuchulain was busied 

1-1 Stowe. »-2 YBL. 2186. 3. ..3 yBL. 2187. 

4-* Stowe. «•••« YBL. 2187-2188. «•••• YBL. 2190. 

'•••» YBL. 2190-2191. 8. ..8 YBL. 2193. 

2i6 ' Tain B6 Cualnge 

beheading the rest ; it was Glass macDelga. And Cuchu- 
lain raced after him like a blast of wind, and Glass ran 
on round the tent of Ailill and Medb, and all he could 
pant out was, " Fiach ! Fiach ! '*" when Cuchulain fetched 
him a stroke that cut off his head. 

" Tis quick work was made of that man,'* quoth Medb. 
" What debt was that he spoke of, O Fergus ? " "I know 
not,*' Fergus answered, " unless it be some one in the camp 
and quarters that owed him a debt. It is that which 
troubled his mind. But be that as it may,'* continued 
Fergus, *' it is a debt of blood and flesh for him. And upon 
my word,'* Fergus added, " now are his debts paid to him for 
good and all ! " 

In this wise fell Calatin Dana (' the Bold') at the hands 
of Cuchulain, together with his seven and twenty sons and 
his grandson Glass macDelga ^ and the two sons of Ficc^ 
with them, two bold warriors of Ulster who had come to 
use their strength on the host.^ So that for evermore in 
the bed of the ford is still the rock whereabout they had 
their strife and struggle ^ and their slaughtering of each 
other ; ^ and the mark of their sword-hilts is in it and of 
their knees and their elbows ^ and their fists ^ and the butt- 
ends of their spears. * And their nine and twenty standing 
stones were set up there.* Hence Fuil lairn (* Blood of 
Iron') to the west* of Ath Firdead (' Ferdiad's Ford') is 
the name of the ford. It is for this it is called Fuil lairn, 
because of the ' blood over weapons ' « that was there. 

Thus far then ^this exploit on the Tiin,^ the Combat 
of the Clann Calatin ^ of his children and his grandson 
with Cuchulain,® ' when they went to do battle with Cuchu- 

• There is a play on words. Glass attempts to pronounce the 
name ' Fiachu,' but is only able to utter the first syllable of the 
word which alone means ' debt.* ^•••^ YBL. 2 194-2 196. 

2-2 Stowe. «-3 YBL. 2198. *•••* YBL. 2198. 

* • South/ YBL. 2184. • See page 208, note a. 
*-6 YBL. 2196. «•••« Stowe. '•••' YBL. 2196-2197. 



2 The four grand provinces of Erin were side by side and 
against Cuchulain, from Monday before Samain-tide • to 
Wednesday after Spring-beginning, and without leave to 
work harm or vent their rage on the province of Ulster, 
while yet all the Ulstermen were sunk in their nine days' 
' Pains,' and Conall Cernach (' the Victorious ') sought out 
battle in strange foreign lands paying the tribute and tax 
of Ulster. Great was the plight and strait of Cuchulain 
during that time, for he was not a day or a night without 
fierce, fiery combat waged on him by the men of Erin, until 
he killed Calatin with his seven and twenty sons and Fraech 
son of Fiadach and performed many deeds and successes 
which are not enumerated here. Now this was sore and 
grievous for Medb and for Ailill.* 
3001. Then the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit ^to 
send to the ford* to fight and do battle with Cuchulain, 
* to drive him off from them * at the morning hour early 
on the morrow. 

5 With one accord ^ they declared that it should be 
Ferdiad son of Daman son of Dare, the great and valiant 
warrior of the men of Domnann, ® the horn-skin from Irrus 
Domnann, the irresistible force, and the battle-rock of 
destruction, the own, dear, foster-brother of Cuchulain.* 

^•••^ Stowe and YBL. 2200 and Eg. 106. 

«•••» Eg. 106. • See note p. 182. ^...a ybL. 2203. 

*•••* YBL. 2202. '•••* Eg. 106. «•••• YBL. 2204-2206. 


2i8 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3005. 1 And fitting it was for him to go thither/ for well-matched 
and alike was their manner of fight and of combat. Under 
the same instructresses had they done skilful deeds of valour 
and arms, when learning the art with Scathach (' the 
Modest ') and with Uathach (* the Dreadful ') and with Aife 
(* the Handsome'). ^ Yet was it the felling of an oak with 
one's fists, and the stretching of the hand into a serpent's 
nest, and a spring into the lair of a lion, for hero or champion 
in the world, aside from Cuchulain, to fight or combat with 
Ferdiad on whatever ford or river or mere he set his shield.* 
And neither of them overmatched the other, save in the 
feat of the Gae Bulga (' the Barbed Spear') which Cuchulain 
possessed. Howbeit, against this, Ferdiad was horn- 
skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the 
ford ; ^ and they thought he could avoid the Gae Bulga 
and defend himself against it, because of the horn about 
him of such kind that neither arms nor multitude of edges 
could pierce it.^ 

Then were messengers and envoys sent * from Medb and 
Ailill * to Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their will, and 
dismissed and sent back the messengers, and he went not 
with them, for he knew wherefore they would have him, to 
fight and combat with his friend, with his comrade and 
foster-brother, ^ Cuchulain.^ 

Then did Medb despatch the druids ® and the poets of the 
camp,® the lampoonists and hard-attackers," for Ferdiad, to 
the end that they might make three satires to stay him 
and three scoffing speeches against him, ' to mock at him 
and revile and disgrace him,' that they might raise three 
blisters on his face. Blame, Blemish and Disgrace, ^ that 
he might not find a place in the world to lay his head,* 

i-» Stowe. 2. ..2 Eg, io5^ 

S...8 YBL. 2208-2209. *•••* Stowe. 

^•••5 Stowe. "•••* Stowe, Eg. 106, Eg. 209. 

• Literally, ' the cheek-blisterers.' 

'— ' YBL. 2213. *•••» YBL. 2214. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 219 

W. 3021. if he came not ^ with them ^ -to the tent of Medb and 

AiHll on the foray. 2 

Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honour 

and ^for fear of their bringing shame on him,^ forasmuch 

as he deemed it better to fall by the shafts of valour and 

bravery and skill, than to fall by the shafts of satire, abuse 

and reproach. And when * Ferdiad * was come ^ into the 

camp,^ 6 Medb and Ailill beheld him, and great and most 

wonderful joy possessed them, and they sent him to where 

their trusty people were, and ^ he was honoured and waited 

on, and choice, well-flavoured strong liquor was poured 

out for him till he became drunken and merry. 'Finna- 

bair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, was seated at his side. 

It was Finnabair that placed her hand on every goblet and 

cup Ferdiad quaffed. She it was that gave him three 

kisses with every cup that he took. She it was that passed 

him sweet-smelling apples over the bosom of her tunic. 

This is what she ceased not to say, that her darling and 

her chosen sweetheart of the world's men was Ferdiad.' 

^ And when Medb got Ferdiad drunken and merry,* great 

rewards were promised him if he would make the fight and 


^ When now Ferdiad was satisfied, happy and joyful, it 

was that Medb spoke : " Hail now, Ferdiad. Dost know 

the occasion wherefore thou art summoned to this tent ? " 

" I know not, in truth," Ferdiad replied ; " unless it be 

that the nobles of the men of Erin are here. Why is it 

less fitting for me to be here than any other good warrior ? " 

" Tis not that, forsooth," answered Medb : " but to give 

thee ^ a chariot worth four ° times seven bondmaids, and 

the apparel of two men and ten men, of cloth of every colour, 

1-1 Stowe. 2.. .2 YBL. 2214. ^-^ YBL. 2215. 

*•••* Stowe and Eg. 209. ^— ^ Stowe and Eg. 209. 

••••« Eg. 106. '•••' YBL. 2216-2221. »•••« Eg. 106. 

"•••• YBL. 2221-2225. 
* * Thrice seven,' YBL. 2226, Stowe, and Eg. 209* 

220 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3028. and the equivalent ^ of the Plain of Murthemne ^ of the 
rich Plain of Ai, ^ and that thou shouldst be at all times in 
Cruachan, and wine be poured out for thee there ; the 
freedom of thy descendants and thy race forever, ^ free of 
tribute, free of rent, without constraint to encamp or take 
LL. fo. 8ib. part in our expeditions,* without duress for ^ thy son, or 
for thy grandson, or for thy great-grandson, till the end 
of time and existence ; ^ * this leaf-shaped golden brooch 
of mine shall be thine, wherein are ten-score ounces, and 
ten-score half ounces, and ten-score scruples, and ten-score 
quarters; * Finnabair, ^my daughter and Ailill's,^ to be 
thine own one wife, ^ and mine own most intimate friend- 
ship, if thou exactest that withal/' " He needs it not," 
they cried, one and all ; " great are the rewards and gifts ! "® 
Such were the words of Medb, and she spake them here 
and Ferdiad responded : — 

Medb : " Great rewards in arm-rings, 
Share of plain and forest. 
Freedom of thy children 

From this day till doom ! 
Ferdiad son of Daman, 
More than thou couldst hope for. 
Why shouldst thou refuse it. 
That which all would take ? " 

Ferdiad : " Naught I'll take without bond — 
No ill spearman am I — 
Hard on me to-morrow: 

Great will be the strife ! 
Hound that's hight of Culann, 
How his thrust is grievous ! 
No soft thing to stand him ; 

Rude will be the wound ! " 

Medb : " Champions will be surety, 

Thou needst not keep hostings. 
Reins and splendid horses 
Shall be given as pledge ! 

1-1 YBL. 2227. 2.. .2 YBL. 2228. 

'•••^ In LL. this passage is reported in indirect discourse ; con- 
sequently, instead of ' thy,' LL. has ' his.' 

4-4 YBL. 2229-2231. 5... 6 YBL. 2231-2232. 

«...« YBL. 2232-2234. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 221 


Ferdiad, good, of battle. 
For that thou art dauntless. 
Thou shalt be my lover. 
Past all, free of cain ! " 

Ferdiad : " Without bond I'll go not 
To engage in ford-feats; 
It will live till doomsday 

In full strength and force. 
Ne'er I'll yield — who hears me. 
Whoe'er counts upon me — 
Without sun- and moon-oath. 
Without sea and land ! " 

Medb : " Why then dost delay it ? 
Bind it as it please thee, 
By kings' hands and princes'. 

Who will stand for thee ! 

Lo, I will repay thee," 

Thou shalt have thine asking. 

For I know thou 'It slaughter 

Man that meeteth thee ! " 

Ferdiad : " Nay, without six sureties — • 
It shall not be fewer — 
Ere I do my exploits 

There where hosts will be ! 
Should my will be granted, 
I swear, though unequal. 
That I'll meet in combat 

Cuchulain the brave ! *' 

Medb : " Domnall, then, or Carbrd, 

Niaman famed for slaughter. 
Or e'en folk of barddom, 

Natheless, thou shalt have. 
Bind thyself on Morann, 
Wouldst thou its fulfilment. 
Bind on smooth Man's Carbrd-, 

And our two sons, bind ! " 

erdiad : " Medb, with wealth of cunning. 
Whom no spouse can bridle. 
Thou it is that herdest 

Cruachan of the mounds ! 
High thy fame and wild power t 
Mine the fine pied satin ; 
Give thy gold and silver, 

Which were proffered me ! "" 

Translating from Stowe. 

N, 3100. 

222 Tain Bo Cualnge 

Medb : "To thee, foremost champion, 
I will give my ringed brooch. 
From this day till Sunday, 

Shall thy respite be ! 
Warrior, mighty, famous, 
All the earth's fair treasures 
Shall to thee be given ; 
Everything be thine ! 

' * Finnabair of the champions (?) , 
Queen of western Erin, 
When thou'st slain the Smith's Hou:iJ, 
Ferdiad, she's thine ! " 

Ferdiad : ^ " Should I have Finnabair to wife. 
Falls of Ai and Cruachan too, 
And to dwell for alway there, 
I'd not seek the deedful Hound ! 

" Equal skill to me and him — " 
Thus spake Ferdiad withal — 

" The same nurses raised us « both, 
And with them we learned our art. 

'* Not for fear of battle hard. 
Noble Eocho Fedlech's maid. 
Would I shun the Blacksmith's Hound, 
But my heart bleeds for his love ! " 

Medb: "Thou shalt have, dear, bright-scaled' man. 
One swift, proud, liigh-mettled steed. 
Thou shalt have domains and land 
And shalt stay not from the fight (?) ! " 

Ferdiad : " But that Medb entreated so. 

And that poets' tongues did urge, 

I'd not go for hard rewards 

To contend with mine own friend ! " 

Medb : " Son of Daman of white cheeks, 

Shouldst thou check this heroes' Hound, 

E'er so long thy fame will live, 

When thou comest from Ferdiad's Ford ! " 

2 Then said they, one and all, those gifts were great. 
3 " Tis true, they are great. ^ But though they are," said 

^•"^ 'Eg. 106 {Revue Celtique, t. x, page 339). The metre is changed 
designedly to agree with the original. 

MS. 'ye.' 

"Referring to Ferdiad's horn-skin. 

* Literally, ' calf. 

2"-2 Stowe, Add. 18,748 and Eg. 209. 3. .,3 YBL. 2234. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 223 

3113- Ferdiad, " with Medb herself I will leave them, and I will 

not accept them if it be to do battle or combat with my 

foster-brother, the man of my alliance and affection, ^ and 

my equal in skill of arms,^ namely, with Cuchulain." And 

he said : — 

" Greatest toil, ^ this, greatest toil,* 
Battle with the Hound of gore ! 
Liefer would I battle twice 
With two hundred men of Fal ! 

" Sad the fight, ^ and sad the fight, ^ 
I and Hound of feats shall wage ! 
We shall hack both flesh and blood ; 
Skin and body we shall hew ! 

" Sad, O god, ^ yea, sad, O god,^ 
That a woman should us part ! 
My heart's half, the blameless Hound ; 
Half the brave Hound's heart am I ! 

" By my shield, ^ O, by my shield,^ 
If Ath Cliath's brave Hound should fall, 
I will drive my slender glaive 
Through my heart, my side, my breast ! 

" By my sword, ^ O, by my sword, ^ 
If the Hound of Glen Bolg fall ! 
No man after him I'll slay. 
Till I o'er the world's brink spring ! 

" By my hand, * O, by my hand ! ^ 
I Falls the Hound of Glen in Sgail, 

Medb with all her host I'll kill. 
And then no more men of Fal ! 

" By my spear, ^ o, by my spear ! ^ 
Should Ath Cro's brave Hound be slain, 
I'll be buried in his grave ; 
May one grave hide me and hjm ! 

' " Liefer would I, ^ liefer far,' 
Arms should slay me in fierce fight. 
Than the death of heroes' Hound," 
Should be food for ravenous birds ? ' 

" Tell him this, 2 O, tell him this,* 
To the Hound of beauteous hue. 
Fearless Scathach hath foretold 
My fall on a ford through him ! 

^•••1 Eg. 106, Eg. 209. 2---2 Eg. 209. 

• The word is illegible in the manuscript. '•••^ Eg. 106. 

224 Tain Bo Cualnge 

" Woe to Medb, ^ yea, woe to Medb, ^ 
Who hath used her ' guile * on us ; 
She hath set me face to face 
'Gainst Cuchulain — ^hard the toil ! " 

" Ye men," spake Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring 
up disunion and dissension, * as if she had not heard Ferdiad 
at all,* " true is the word Cuchulain speaks." " What 
word is that ? " asked Ferdiad. "He said, then," replied 
Medb, *' he would not think it too much if thou shouldst 
fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in arms, in 
the land whereto he should come." " It was not just for 
him to speak so," quoth Ferdiad; " for it is not cowardice 
or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in me ^ by day or 
by night.^ ® And I speak not so to him, for I have it not 
to say of him.® And I swear by my arms ^of valour,' if 
it be true that he spoke so, I will be the first man of the men 
of Erin to contend with him on the morrow, ^ how loath 
soever I am to do so ! " ^ 

^ And he gave his word in the presence of them all that 
he would go and meet Cuchulain. For it pleased Medb, 
if Ferdiad should fail to go, to have them as a witness against 
him, in order that she might say it was fear or dread that 
caused him to break his word.^ ' ' A blessing ^^ and victory ^^ 
upon thee for that ! " said Medb ; "it pleaseth me more 
than for thee to show fear and lack of boldness. For every 
man loves his own land, and how is it better for him to 
seek the welfare of Ulster, ^^ because his mother was des- 
cended from the Ulstermen,!^ ^han for thee to seek the 
welfare of Connacht,^ ^^ as thou art the son of a king of 
Connacht ? " 12 

Then it was that Medb obtained from Ferdiad the easy 

1...1 Eg. 209. 

3—3 Reading with Eg. 209. *•••* YBL. 2238. 

«— * YBL. 2242. *•••• Eg. 106. »— ' Eg. 209. 

•— • Eg. 106. ••••» Eg. 106. "—1* YBL. 2244. 

11. ..11 YBL. 2247. "•••" YBL. 224&. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 225 

[03. surety of a covenant to fight and contend on the morrow 
with six warriors ^ of the champions of Erin/ or to fight 
and contend with Cuchulain alone, if to him this last seemed 
lighter. Ferdiad obtained ^ of Medb ^ the easy surety,' as 
he thought,' to send the aforesaid six men for the fulfilment 
of the terms which had been promised him, should Cuchulain 
fall at his hands. 

* There was a wonderful warrior of the Ulstermen present 
at that covenant, and that was Fergus macRoig. Fergus 
betook him to his tent. " Woe is me, for the deed that 
will be done on the morning of the morrow ! " " What 
deed is that ? " his tent-folk asked. " My good fosterling 
Cuchulain will be slain \ " " Good lack ! who makes that 
boast? " "Not hard to say: None other but his dear, 
devoted foster-brother, Ferdiad son of Daman. Why 
bear ye not my blessing," Fergus continued, " and let one 
of you go with a warning and mercy to Cuchulain, if per- 
chance he would leave the ford on the morn of the morrow ? " 
"As we live," said they; " though it were thyself was on 
the ford of battle, we would not go near him to seek thee." 
*' Come, my lad," cried Fergus, " get our horses for us, 
and yoke the chariot ! " * 

Then were Fergus' horses fetched for him and his chariot 
was yoked, and he came forward to the place ^ of combat ^ 
where Cuchulain was, to inform him ® of the challenge, that 
Ferdiad was to fight with him.^ 

' " A chariot cometh hither towards us, O Cuchulain ! " 
cried Laeg. For in this wise was the gilla, with his back to- 
wards his lord. He used to win every other game of draughts 
and of chess from his master. Watch and guard of the four 
airts was he besides. " What manner of chariot is it ? " 

^•••^ Stowe and Eg. 209. 

2—2 Stowe, Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 3. ..3 ^ gloss, in LL. 

«•••* YBL. fo. 36a, 21-36. «-6 YBL. fo. 36a. 38. 

«•••• Eg. 209. '•••' YBL. fo. 36a, 39-36b, 15. 


226 Tain Bo Cualnge 

asked Cuchulain. " A chariot like to a royal fort, huge, 
with its yoke, strong, golden ; with its great board of copper ; 
with its shafts of bronze ; with its thin- framed, dry-bodied 
box (?)... set on two horses, black, swift, stout, 
strong -forked, thick-set, under beautiful shafts. One kingly, 
broad-eyed warrior is the combatant in the chariot. A 
curly, forked beard he wears that reaches below outside 
over the smooth lower part of his soft tunic, which would 
shelter fifty warriors on a day of storm and rain under the 
heavy shield of the warrior's beard. A bent buckler, 
white, beautiful, of many colours, he bears, with three 
stout-wrought chains, so that there is room from edge to 
edge for four troops of ten men behind the leather of the 
shield which hangs upon the broad back of the warrior. 
A long, hard-edged, broad, red sword in a sheath woven 
and twisted of white silver, over the ... of the battle- 
warrior. A strong, three-ridged spear, wound and banded 
with all-gleaming white silver he has lying across the 

** Not difficult to recognize him," said Cuchulain : " 'tis 
my master Fergus that cometh hither with a warning and 
with compassion for me, before all the four provinces of 
W. 3172. Fergus drew nigh and sprang from his chariot.' Cuchu- 

*LL. fo. 82a. lain bade him welcome.* " Welcome is thy coming, 
my master Fergus ! " cried Cuchulain. ^ " If a flock of 
birds comes into the plain, thou shalt have a duck with 
half of another. If a fish comes into the river-mouths, thou 
shalt have a salmon with half of another. A handful of 
water- cress and a bunch of laver and a sprig of sea-grass 
and a drink of cold water from the sand thou shalt have 
thereafter." " 'Tis an outlaw's portion, that," said Fergus. 
*' 'Tis true ; 'tis an outlaw's portion is mine," answered 
Cuchulain. 1 "Truly intended, methinks, the welcome, O 
1...1 YBL. 36b, 27-28. '•••7 See note 7, page 225. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 227 

; 1 74. fosterling," said Fergus. "But, ^ were it for this I came, 
I should think it better to leave it.^ It is for this I 
am here, to inform thee who comes to fight and contend 
with thee at the morning hour early on the morrow/' 
" E'en so will we hear it from thee," said Cuchulain. " Thine 
own friend and comrade and foster-brother, the man thine 
equal in feats and in skill of arms and in deeds, Ferdiad 
son of Daman son of Dare, the great and mighty warrior 
of the men of Domnann." 2 " ^s my soul liveth," ^ replied 
Cuchulain, "it is not to an encounter we wish our friend to 
come, and ^ not for fear, but for love and affection of him ; * 
* and almost I would prefer to fall by the hand of that 
warrior than for him to fall by mine." * " It is even for 
that," answered Fergus, " thou shouldst be on thy guard 
and prepared. ^ Say not that thou hast no fear of Ferdiad, 
for it is fitting that thou shouldst have fear and dread before 
fighting with Ferdiad.^ For unlike all to whom it fell to 
fight and contend with thee on the Cualnge Cattle-raid 
on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman son of Dare, 
^ for he hath a horny skin about him ^ in battle against a 
. man,® 'a belt,' ^ equally strong, victorious in battle,® 
and neither points nor edges are reddened upon it ^ ^° in 
the hour of strife and anger. For he is the fury of a 
lion, and the bursting of wrath, and the blow of doom, 
and the wave that drowneth foes." ^^ ^^" Speak not thus ! " 
cried Cuchulain, "for I swear ^^by my arms of valour, ^^ 
the oath that my people swear, that every limb and every 
joint will be as soft as a pliant rush in the bed of a river 
under the point of sword, if he show himself to me on the 
ford ! ^2 Truly am I here," said Cuchulain, " checking and 

1...1 YBL. 36b, 18-24. '^'"^ Literally, ' I say our confession.' 

••' Stowe, Eg. 209, Eg. 106. *•••* Eg. io6. 

••5 Eg. 106. «•••« YBL. fo. 36b, 38. '•••' Eg. 106. 

••' Eg. 106. 

••• Stowe and Eg. 209, and, similarly, YBL. 36b, 37. 
10...10 Eg, io5, 11. ..11 Eg, io5, 12. ..12 YBL, 35^,^ 38-43. 


Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 3185. staying four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday 
at ** Summer's end till ^ the beginning of spring, ^ and I 
have not left my post for a night's disport, through stoutly 
opposing the men of Erin on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge.^ 
And in all this time, I have not put foot in retreat before 
any one man ^ nor before a multitude,^ and methinks just 
as little will I turn foot in flight before him." 

3 And thus spake he, that it was not fear of Ferdiad that 
caused his anxiety for the fight, but his love for him. ^And, 
on his part, so spake Fergus, putting him on his guard * be- 
cause of Ferdiad's strength,* and he said these words and 
Cuchulain responded : — 

Fergus : " O Cuchulain — splendid deed — 
Lo, 'tis time for thee to rise. 
Here in rage against thee comes 
Ferdiad, red-faced Daman's son ! " 

Cuchulain : " Here am I — no easy task — « 
Holding Erin's men at bay ; 
Foot I've never turned in flight 
In my fight with single foe! " 

Fergus : " Dour the man when anger moves, 
Owing to his gore-red glaive ; 
Ferdiad wears a skin of horn, 
'Gainst which fight nor might prevails ! " 

Cuchulain : " Be thou still ; urge not thy tale, 
Fergus of the mighty arms. 
On no land and on no ground. 
For me is there aught defeat ! " 

Fergus : " Fierce the man with scores of deeds ; 
No light thing, him to subdue. 
Strong as hundreds — ^brave his mien — 
Point pricks not, edge cuts him not ! " 

Cuchulain : " If we clash upon the ford, 

I and Ferdiad of known skill, 
We'll not part without we know : 
Fierce will be our weapon fight ! " 

« Stowe and H. i. 13 : ' before ' ; YBL. 36b, 24 : ' after.' 
* ' Till Wednesday after Spring,' is the reading of H. i. 13. 
YBL. 36b, 25-26. 2... 2 stowe. 


^•-^ Stowe, and, similarly. Eg. 209. 
« Literally, ' no meagre sail.' 

*•••* Stowe. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 229 

5214, Fergus : " More I'd wish it than reward, 

O Cuchulain of red sword, 
Thou shouldst be the one to bring 
Eastward haughty Ferdiad's spoils ! " 

Cuchulain : " Now I give my word and vow, 

Though unskilled in strife of words, 
It is I will conquer this 
Son of Daman macDard ! " 

Fergus : " It is I brought east the host. 
Thus requiting Ulster's wrong. 
With me came they from their lands, 
With their heroes and their chiefs ! " 

Cuchulain : " Were not Conchobar in the ' Pains,' 
Hard 'twould be to come near us. 
Never Medb of Mag in Scail 
On more tearful march had come!" 

Fergus : " Greatest deed awaits thy hand : 
Fight with Ferdiad, Daman's son. 
Hard stern arms with stubborn edge,* 
Shalt thou have, thou Culann's Hound ! " 

1 After that/ Fergus returned to the camp and halting- 
place 2 of the men of Erin,^ ^ lest the men of Erin should 
say he was betraying them or forsaking them, if he should 
remain longer than he did conversing with Cuchulain. 
And they took farewell of each other. ^ 

* Now as regards the charioteer of Cuchulain ^ after 
Fergus went from them : ^ " What wilt thou do to-night ? " 
asked Laeg. " What, indeed ? " said Cuchulain. " It 
will be thus " (said the charioteer) " Ferdiad will come to 
I attack thee, with new beauty of plaiting and dressing of 
hair, and washing and bathing, and the four provinces of 
Erin with him to look at the combat. I would that thou 
wouldst go where thou wilt get a like adorning for thyself, 
to the place where is Emer Folt chain (' Emer of the Beau- 
tiful Hair/ thy wife), ® daughter of Forgal Monach,* 

* Or, ' which quatrains love (?),' a cheville. 

1-1 YBL. 37a, 22. 2. ..2 stowe and H. i. 13. 

'•••' Eg. 106. *•••* YBL. 37a, 29-39, and, similarly, Eg. io6. 

»•••» Eg. 106. «•••« Eg. 106. 

230 Tain Bo Cualnge 

at Cairthenn in Cluan da Dam, (' two Oxen's Meadow ') in 
Sliab Fuait, ^ where thou wilt get even such an adorning 
for thyself." ^ ^ *' It is fitting to do so," said Cuchulain.^ 
Then Cuchulain went thither that night ^ to Dundelgan,^ 
and passed the night with his wife. His doings from that 
time are not related here now.* 
W. 3235. ^As for^ Ferdiad, he betook himself to his tent and to 
his people, and imparted to them the easy surety which 
Medb had obtained from him to do combat and battle 
with six warriors on the morrow, or to do combat and 
battle with Cuchulain alone, if he thought it a lighter task. 
He made known to them also the fair terms he had obtained 
from Medb of sending the same six warriors for the fulfilment 
of the covenant she had made with him, should Cuchulain 
fall by his hands. 

® The folk of Ferdiad were not joyful, blithe, cheerful 
'LL. fo. 82b. or merry that night, ^ * but they were sad, sorrowful 
and downcast, for they knew that where the two champions 
and the two bulwarks in a gap for a hundred, ' the tw^o 
pillars of battle and strife of the men of Erin ' ^ of that 
time ^ met in combat, one or other of them would fall there 
or both would fall, and if it should be one of them, they 
believed it would be ® their king and * their own lord ^^ that 
would fall there, ^^ for it was not easy to contend and do 
battle with Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge. 
Ferdiad slept right heavily the first part of the night, 
but when the end of the night was come, his sleep and his 
heaviness left him. And the anxiousness of the combat 
and the battle came upon him. ^^ But most troubled in 
spirit was he that he should allow all the treasures to pass 
from him, and the maiden, by reason of combat with one 

1--1 Eg. 106. 2. ..2 Eg 106. 3...3 Eg 106. 5...5 Eg. 706. 
••••« LL., with the help of Stowe ; LL. being partly illegible here. 
'•••' Stowe, and, similarly. Eg. 209, Eg. 106 and YBL. 37a, 43. 
»•••» YBL. 37a, 43. »•••» H. I. 13. iO"i» Stowe. 

11...11 YBL. 37a, 47-37b, 5- 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 231 

man. Unless he fought with that one man, he must needs 
fight with six champions on the morrow. What tormented 
him more than that vv^as, should he once show himself on 
the ford to Cuchulain he was certain he would never have 
power of head or of life ever after. And Ferdiad arose 
3252. early on the morrow. ^^ And he charged his charioteer to 
take his horses and to yoke his chariot. The charioteer 
sought to dissuade him ^ f rom that journey.^ ^ " By our 
word," 2 said the gilla, " 'twould be better for thee** ^ to 
remain than to go thither," said he ; " for, not more do I 
commend it for thee than I condemn it." ^ " Hold thy 
peace about us, boy ! " quoth Ferdiad, * " f or we will brook 
no interference from any one concerning this journey.* 
5 For the promise we gave to Medb and Ailill in the presence 
of the men of Erin, it would shame us to break it ; for they 
would say it was fear or dread that caused us to break it. 
And, by my conscience, I would almost liefer fall myself 
by Cuchulain's hand than that he should fall by mine on 
this occasion. And should Cuchulain fall by my hand on 
the ford of combat, then shall Medb and many of the men 
of Erin fall by my hand because of the pledge they extorted 
from me, and I drunken and merry.^ And in this manner 
he spake, ® conversing with the charioteer,^ and he uttered 
these words, 'the little lay that follows, urging on the 
charioteer,' and the henchman responded : — 

Ferdiad : " Let's haste to th' encounter. 
To battle with this man; 
The ford we will come to. 

O'er which Badb will shriek ! 
To meet with Cuchulain, 
To wound his slight body. 
To thrust the spear through him 

So that he may die ! " 

1-1 Stowe, Eg. 106 and H. i. 13. 2-2 YBL. 37b, 7. 

« MSS.: 'ye.' 

'•••3 Stowe, and, similarly. Eg. io6, Eg. 109 and H. i. 13. 

4. ..4 Stowe, and, similarly, Eg. 209, Eg. 106 and H. i. 13. 

••••6 Eg. 106. «•••• YBL. 37b. 9. '•••' YBL. 37b, 10. 

232 Tain Bo Ciialnge 

The Henchman : "To stay it were better ; 

Your threats are not gentle ; 
Death's sickness will one have. 

And sad will ye part ! 
To meet Ulster's noblest. 
To meet whence ill cometh ; 
Long will men speak of it. 
Alas, for your® course ! " 

Ferdiad : " Not fair what thou speakest ; 
No fear hath the warrior ; 
We owe no one meekness ; 

We stay not for thee ! 
Hush, gilla, about us ! 
The time will bring strong hearts ; 
More meet strength than weakness ; 
1 Let's on to the tryst ! " ^ 

Ferdiad' s horses were now brought forth and his chariot 
was hitched, and he set out ^ from the camp ^ for the ford 
of battle when yet day with its full light had not come there 
for him. ^ " ^y lad," spake Ferdiad, "it is not fitting 
that we make our journey without bidding farewell to the 
men of Erin. Turn the horses and the chariot for us to- 
wards the men of Erin." Thrice the servant turned the 
heads of the horses and the chariot towards the men of 
Erin. Then he came upon Medb letting her water from 
her on the floor of the tent. " Ailill, sleepest thou still ? " 
asked Medb. " Not so ! " replied Ailill. " Dost hear thy 
new son-in-law taking farewell of thee ? " "Is that what 
he doth ? " asked Ailill. " Tis that, verily," Medb made 
answer ; " but I swear by what my tribe swears, not on 
the same feet will the man who makes that greeting come 
back to you." " Howbeit, we have profited by a happy 
alliance of marriage with him," quoth Ailill ; "if only 
Cuchulain falls by his hand, I should be pleased if they 
both fell, yet would I prefer that Ferdiad should escape." 

Ferdiad came to the ford of combat. " Look, my lad!" 
said Ferdiad, " is Cuchulain on the ford ? " " That he 

• MS. : ' his.' 1-1 YBL. 37b, 22. 2. ..2 yBL. 37b, 24. 

3-3 YBL. 37b, 25-38a, 25. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 233 

is not," replied the gilla. " Look well for us," said Fer- 
diad. " Cuchulain is not a little speck where he would be 
in hiding," answered the gilla. " 'Tis true, then, my lad ; 
till this day Cuchulain hath not heard of a goodly warrior 
coming to meet him on the Cow-spoil of Cualnge, and now 
when he has heard of one, he has left the ford." 

" Shame for thee to slander Cuchulain in his absence. 
Rememberest thou not when ye gave battle to German 
Garbglas above the borders of the Tyrrhene Sea, thou lef test 
thy sword with the hosts, and it was Cuchulain who slew a 
hundred warriors till he reached it and brought it to thee ? 
And mindest thou well where we were that night ? " the 
gilla asked further. " I know not," Ferdiad answered. 
** At the house of Scathach's steward," said the other ; 
''and thou wentest . . . and proudly in advance of us 
all into the house. The churl gave thee a blow with his 
three-pointed fork in the small of the back, so that thou 
flewest like a bolt out over the door. Cuchulain came in 
and gave the churl a blow with his sword, so that he made 
two pieces of him. I was their house-steward whilst ye were 
in that place. If it were that day, thou wouldst not say 
thou wast a better warrior than Cuchulain." " Wrong is 
what thou hast done, O gilla," said Ferdiad; "for I would 
not have come to the combat, hadst thou spoken thus to 
me at first. Why dost thou not lay the chariot-poles at my 
side and the skin-coverings under my head, that so I may 
sleep now ? " " Alas," said the gilla, "'tis a sorry sleep 
before deer and packs of wolves here ! " " How so, gilla ? 
Art thou not able to keep watch and guard f or me ? " "I 
am," the gilla answered ; " unless they come in clouds or 
in the air to attack thee, they shall not come from east or 
from west to attack thee without warning, without notice." ^ 
*' Come, gilla," said Ferdiad, ^ " unharness the horses and ^ 

^•••^ St owe. 

234 Tain B6 Cualnge 

3285. spread for me the cushions and skins of my chariot under 
me here, so that I sleep off my heavy fit of sleep and slumber 
here, for I slept not the last part of the night with the 
anxiousness of the battle and combat." 

The gilla unharnessed the horses ; he unfastened the 
' chariot under him, ^ and spread beneath him the chariot- 
cloths.^ He slept off the heavy fit of sleep that was on 
him. 2 The gilla remained on watch and guard for him.^ 

Now how Cuchulain fared ^ is related ^ here : He arose 
not till the day with its bright light had come to him, lest 
the men of Erin might say it was fear or fright of the cham- 
pion he had, if he should arise * early. ^ And when day 
with its full light had come, he ^ passed his hand over his 
face and^ bade his charioteer take his horses and yoke 
them to his chariot. " Come, gilla," said Cuchulain, " take 
out our horses for us and harness our chariot, for an early 
riser is the warrior appointed to meet us, Ferdiad son of 
Daman son of Dare. ^ If Ferdiad awaits us, he must needs 
think it long." ^ " The horses are taken out," ' said the 
gilla;' "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no 
shame to thy valour ^ to go thither ! " ^ ^ Cuchulain 
stepped into the chariot and they pressed forward to the 
ford.^ Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, 
battle-winning, red-sworded hero, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, 
mounted his chariot, so that there shrieked around him 
the goblins and fiends and the sprites of the glens and the 
demons of the air ; for the Tuatha De Danann (' the Folk 
of the Goddess Danu ') were wont to set up their cries around 
him, to the end that the dread and the fear and the fright 
and the terror of him might be so much the greater in every 

•1 Stowe. =-2 Eg. 106. 

•3 stowe and YBL. 38a, 28. ^----t Stowe. 

■^ Stowe, and, similarly Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 

•8 YBL. 38a, 30. 7. ..7 stowe. ^...a h. i. 13. 

•9 YBL. 38a, 31-32. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 235 

iV. 3304. battle and on every field, in every fight and in every combat 
wherein he went. 

Not long had Ferdiad's charioteer waited when he heard 
something : ^ A rush and a crash and a hurtling sound, 
and a din and a thunder,^ * and a clatter and a clash, namely, *ll. fo. 83a 
the shield-cry of feat-shields, and the jangle of javelins, and 
the deed-striking of swords, and the thud of the helmet, 

* and the ring of spears,^ and the clang of the cuirass, and 
the striking of arms, the fury of feats, the straining of ropes, 
and the whirr of wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, 
and the trampling of horses' hoofs, and the deep voice of 
the hero and battle-warrior ^ in grave speech with his 
servant ^ on his way to the ford to attack his opponent. 

The servant came and touched his master with his hand 

* and awakened him.* " Ferdiad, master," said the youth, 
*' rise up ! They are here to meet thee at the ford." ^ Then ^ 
® Ferdiad arose and girt his body in his war-dress of battle 
and combat.* And the gilla spake these words : — 

" The roll of a chariot, 
Its fair yoke of silver ; 
A man great and stalwart 

O'ertops the strong car ! 
O'er Bri Ross, o'er Brand 
Their sv/ift path they hasten ; 
Past Old-tree Town's " tree-stump. 

Victorious they speed ! 

"A sly Hound that driveth, 
A fair chief that urgeth, 
A free hawk that speedeth 

His steeds towards the south ! 
Gore-coloured, the Cua,* 
'Tis sure he will take us ; 
We know — vain to hide it — 
He brings us defeat ! " 

1...1 From Stowe ; LL. is illegible here. 2... 3 jj. i. 13. 

'•••' Stowe. 4-* YBL. 38a, 35. «•••» H. i. 13. 

«"•« Stowe and, similarly. Eg. 209, Eg. 106 and H. i. 13. 
• Baile in bile, MSS. * A shortened form for 'Cuchulain.* 

' Literally, ' battle, strife.' 

236 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

" Woe him on the hillock. 
The brave Hound before him ; 
Last year I foretold it, 

That some time he'd come ! 
Hound from Emain Macha, 
Hound formed of all colours. 
The Border-hound, War-hound, 
I hear what I've heard ! " 

" Come, gilla," said Ferdiad; " for what reason laudest 
thou this man ever since I am come from my house ? And 
it is almost a cause for strife with thee that thou hast praised 
him thus highly. But, AiHU and Medb have prophesied to 
me that this man will fall by my hand. And since it is 
for a reward, he shall quickly be torn asunder by me. ^ And 
make ready the arms on the ford against his coming." 
" Should I turn my face backward," said the gilla ; " me- 
thinks the poles of yon chariot will pass through the back 
of my neck." " Too much, my lad," said Ferdiad, " dost 
thou praise Cuchulain, for not a reward has he given thee 
for praising, ^ but it is time to fetch help." And he spake 
these words, and the henchman responded : — 

Ferdiad : " 'Tis time now to help me ; 
Be silent ! cease praising ! 
'Twas no deed of friendship. 

No doom o'er the brink(?) " 
The Champion of Cualnge, 
Thou seest 'midst proud feats, 
For that it's for guerdon. 

Shall quickly be slain ! " * 

The Henchman : "I see Cualnge's hero. 

With feats overweening. 
Not fleeing he flees us. 

But towards us he comes. 
He runneth — not slowly — 
Though cunning — ^not sparing — 
Like water 'down high cUfE 
7 Or thunderbolt quick!" 

1...1 YBL. 38b, 46-57. • The meaning is obscure. 

* Literally, ' torn.' 


The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 237 

Ferdiad : " 'Tis cause of a quarrel, 

So much thou hast praised him ; 
And why hast thou chose him, 

Since I am from home ? 
And now they extol him. 
They fall to proclaim him ; 
None come to attack him. 
But soft simple men(?)." 

1 Here followeth the Description of Cuchulain's chariot, 
one of the three chief Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of 
Cualnge. ^ 

It was not long that Ferdiad's charioteer remained there 
when he saw something : ^ " How beholdest thou Cuchu- 
lain ? " asked Ferdiad of his charioteer. " I behold/* 
said he,2 " a beautiful, five-pointed chariot, ^ broad above, 
of white crystal, with a thick yoke of gold, with stout plates 
of copper, with shafts of bronze, with wheel-bands of bronze 
covered with silver,^ approaching with swiftness, with 
speed, with perfect skill ; with a green shade, with a thin- 
framed, dry-bodied (?) box surmounted with feats of cunning, 
* straight-poled,* as long as a warrior's sword. ^ On this^ 
was room for a hero's seven arms, the fair seat for its lord ; 
« two wheels, dark, black ; a pole of tin, with red enamel, 
of a beautiful colour; two inlaid, golden bridles.^ 'This 
chariot was placed ' behind two fleet steeds, ^ nimble, 
furious, small-headed,^ bounding, large-eared, ^ small- 
snouted, sharp-beaked, red-chested,^ gaily prancing, with 
inflated '*nostrils,broad-chested, quick-hearted, high-flanked, 
broad-hoofed, slender-limbed, overpowering and resolute. 
A grey, broad-hipped, small-stepping, long-maned horse, 
^<* whose name was Liath (* the Roan ') of Macha,^^ was under 

1...1 YBL. 38a, 48-49. In the following description of the chariot 
and steeds has been incorporated part of the parallel passages in 
LU. 1969-1977 and YBL. 38a-38b. Eg. io6, Eg. 109 and H. 2. 12 
{Revue Celtique, xi, 25) contain more adjectives. 

2-2 YBL. 38a, 51-52. 3-3 YBL. 38b, 1-3. 5^ *•••* LU. 1973. 

5-5 YBL. ••••• YBL. 38b. 19-21. .,, '•••' LU. 1972. 

»•••• LU. 1973. '•••' LU. 1973. 

10. ..10 Eg^ 209. " Literally, ' bagnosed.' 

238 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3379. one of the yokes of the chariot ; a black, crisped-maned, 
swift-moving, broad-backed horse, ^ whose name was Dubh 
(' the Black ') of Sithleann,i under the other. Like unto a 
hawk after its prey on a sharp tempestuous day, or to a 
tearing blast of wind of Spring on a March day over the 
back of a plain, or unto a startled stag when first roused 
*LL. fo. 83b. by the hounds in the first of the chase,* were Cuchulain's 
two horses before the chariot, as if they were on glowing, 
fiery flags, so that they shook the earth and made it tremble 
with the fleetness of their course. 

2 "In the front of this chariot is a man with fair, curly, 
long hair. There is around him a cloak, blue, Parthian 
purple. A spear with red and keen-cutting blades, flaming- 
red in his hand. The semblance of three heads of hair he 
has, namely, brown hair next to the skin of his head, blood- 
red hair in the middle, a crown of gold is the third head 
of hair. 

" Beautiful is the arrangement of that hair so that it 
makes three coils down behind over his shoulders. Even as 
a thread of gold it seems, when its hue has been wrought 
over the edge of an anvil ; or like to the yellow of bees where- 
on shines the sun on a summer's day is the shining of each 
single hair of his hair. Seven toes he has on each of his 
feet and seven fingers on each of his hands and the brilliance 
of a very great fire is around his eye. 

" Befitting him is the charioteer beside him, with curly, 
jet-black hair, shorn broad over his head. A cowled gar- 
ment around him, open at the elbows. A horse-whip, very 
fine and golden in his hand, and a light-grey cloak wrapped 
around him, and a goad of white silver in his hand. He 
plies the goad on the horses whatever way would go the 
deed-renowned warrior that is in the chariot.** ^ 

And Cuchulain reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on 

1-1 Eg. 209. 2. ..2 YBL. 38b, 21-44. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 239 

3387- the south side of the ford ; Cuchulain stood on the north 
side . Ferdiad bade welcome to Cuchulain . ' * Welcome is thy 
coming, O Cuchulain ! " said Ferdiad. " Truly spoken 
meseemed thy welcome till now," answered Cuchulain ; 
" but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," 
said Cuchulain, " it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome 
than that thou should'st welcome me ; for it is thou that art 
come to the land and province wherein I dwell ; and it is not 
fitting for thee to come to contend and do battle with me, 
but it were fitter for me to go to contend and do battle with 
thee. For before thee in flight are my women and my 
boys and my youths, my steeds and my troops of horses, 
my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle." 

" Good, O Cuchulain," spake Ferdiad ; " what has ever 
brought thee out to contend and do battle with me ? For 
when we were ^ together ^ with Scathach and with Uathach 
and with Aife, ^ thou wast not a man worthy of me, for ^ 
thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and 
dressing my bed." " That was indeed true," answered 
Cuchulain ; " because of my youth and my littleness did I 
so much for thee, but this is by no means my mood this day. 
For there is not a warrior in the world I would not drive 
off this day ^ in the field of battle and combat." ^ 

* It was not long before they met in the middle of the 
ford.* And then it was that each of them cast sharp- 
cutting reproaches at the other, renouncing his friendship ; 
and Ferdiad spake these words there, and Cuchulain re- 
sponded : — 

Ferdiad : " What led thee, O Cua, 

To fight a strong champion ? 
Thy flesh will be gore-red 

O'er smoke of thy steeds ! 
Alas for thy journey, 
A kindling of firebrands ; 
In sore need of healing. 

If home thou shouldst reach ! " 

>-i Stowe. »— " Stowe. '-3 Stowe. 4-* YBL. 39a, 14. 


Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 3417. 

Cuchulain : " I'm come before warriors 

Around the herd's wild Boar,*" 
Before troops and hundreds. 

To drown thee in deep. 
In anger, to prove thee 
In hundred-fold battle. 
Till on thee come havoc. 
Defending thy head ! " 

Ferdiad : " Here stands one to crush thee, 
'Tis I will destroy thee. 


Ferdiad : 

Cuchulain : 

From me there shall come 
The flight of their warriors 
In presence of Ulster, 
That long they'll remember 

The loss that was theirs ! " 

' How then shall we combat ? 
For wrongs shall we heave sighs ? 
Despite all, we'll go there. 

To fight on the ford ! 
Or is it with hard swords, 
Or e'en with red spear-points, 
Before hosts to slay thee, 

If 2 thy 2 hour hath come ? " 

'Fore sunset, 'fore nightfall — 
If need be, then guard thee — 
I'll fight thee at Bairche, 

Not bloodlessly fight ! 
The Ulstermen call thee, 
' He has him ! ' Oh, hearken ! 
The sight will distress them 

That through them will pass * ! " 

In danger's gap fallen. 

At hand is thy life's term ; 

On thee plied be weapons. 

Not gentle the skill! 
One champion will slay thee ; 
We both will encounter ; 
No more shalt lead forays, 

3 From this day till Doom ! " » 

« That is. King Conchobar. 

^•••^ A line has dropped out here in the MS., and cannot be re- 
constructed, since the stanza is found only in LL. For this reason, 
the meaning of the following line is uncertain. 

2- "2 Reading with YBL. 39a, 34. 

• Literally, ' it will go over and through them ! ' 

3 •••3 Translating from YBL. fo. 39a, 41. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 241 


Ferdiad : " Avaunt with thy warnings. 

Thou world's greatest braggart ; 
Nor guerdon nor pardon, 

1 Low warrior for thee ! ^ 

'Tis I that well know thee, 

Thou heart of a cageling — 

This lad merely tickles — 

Without skill or force ! " 

Cuchulain : " When we were with Scathach, 
For wonted arms' training, 
Together we'd fare forth. 

To seek every fight. 
Thou wast my heart's comrade. 
My clan and my kinsman ; 
Ne'er found I one dearer ; 

Thy loss would be sad ! " 

Ferdiad : *" Thou wager 'st thine honour 
Unless we do battle ; 
Before the cock croweth. 

Thy head on a spit ! 
Cuchulain of Cualnge, 
Mad frenzy hath seized thee 
All ill we'll wreak on thee. 

For thine is the sin ! " 

'LL. fo. 84a. 

" Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cuchulain, " not meet 
was it for thee to come to contend and do battle with me. 
because of the instigation and intermeddUng of Ailill 
and Medb, ^and because of the false promises that 
they made thee. Because of their deceitful terms and of 
the maiden have many good men been slain. ^ And all 
that came ^because of those promises of deceit,^ neither 
profit nor success did it bring them, and they have fallen 
by me. And none the more, *0 Ferdiad,* shall it win 
victory or increase of fame for thee ; and, ^ as they all 
fell,^ shalt thou too fall by my hand ! " Thus he spake, 

^•••i Literally, ' (For) thou art not a bush (i.e. a hero) over a 
bush (hero).' 

^•••" Stowe, and, similarly, Eg, 209 and Eg. 106. 
*•••' Stowe, and, similarly. Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 
••••* Stowe, and, similarly, Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 
'•••^ Stowe, and, similarly, Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 


242 * Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3486. and he further uttered these words and Ferdiad hearkened 

to him : — 

" Come not nigh me, noble chief, 
Ferdiad, comrade. Daman's son. 
Worse for thee than 'tis for me ; 
Thou'lt bring sorrow to a host ! 

" Come not nigh me 'gainst all right ; 
Thy last bed is made by me. 
Why shouldst thou alone escape 
From the prowess of my arms ? 

" Shall not great feats thee undo. 
Though thou'rt purple, homy-skinned ? 
And the maid thou boastest of. 
Shall not, Daman's son, be thine ! 

" Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair. 
Great her charms though they may be. 
Fair as is the damsel's form, 
She's^for thee not to enjoy ! 

" Finnabair, the king's own child. 
Is the lure, if truth be told ; 
Manylthey whom she's deceived 
And undone as she has thee ! 

" Break not, weetless, oath with me ; 
Break not friendship, break not bond ; 
Break not promise, break not word ; 
Come not nigh me, noble chief ! 

"5 Fifty chiefs obtained in plight 
This same maid, a proffer vain. 
Through me went they to their graves ; 
Spear-right all they had from me ! 

"j Though for brave was held Ferbaeth, 
With whom was a warriors' train. 
In short space I quelled his rage ; 
Him I slew with one sole blow! 

" Srubdare — ^sore sank his might — 
Darling of the noblest dames. 
Time there was when great his fame — 
Gold nor raiment saved him not ! 

** Were she mine affianced wife, 
Smiled on me this fair land's head,* 
I would not thy body hurt. 
Right nor left, in front, behind ! " 

« That is. Queen Medb. 


The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 243 

"Good, O Ferdiad ! " cried Cuchulain. ^ " A pity it is 
for thee to abandon my alliance and my friendship for the 
sake of a woman that has been trafficked to fifty other 
warriors before thee, and it would be long before I would 
forsake thee for that woman. ^ Therefore, it is not right 
for thee to come to fight and combat with me ; for when 
we were with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aife, 
2 we were together in practice of valour and arms of the 
world, and ^ it was together we were used to seek out every 
battle and every battle-field, every combat and every con- 
test, every wood and every desert, every covert and every 
recess." And thus he spake and he uttered these words : — 

Cuchulain : " We were heart-companions once ; 
We were comrades in the woods ; 
We were men that shared a bed, 
When we slept the heavy sleep. 
After hard and weary fights. 
Into many lands, so strange. 
Side by side we sallied forth. 
And we ranged the woodlands through. 
When with Scathach we learned arms ! " 

Ferdiad : " O Cuchulain, rich in feats. 

Hard the trade we both have learned ; 
Treason hath o'ercome our love ; 
Thy first wounding hath been bought ; 
Think not of our friendship more, 
Cua, it avails thee not ! " 

" Too long are we now in this way," quoth Ferdiad ; 
*' and what arms shall we resort to to-day, O Cuchulain ? " 
*' With thee is thy choice of weapons this day till night time," 
answered Cuchulain, " for thou art he that first didst reach 
the ford." " Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad, 
^' the choice deeds of arms we were wont to practise with 
Scathach and with Uathach and with Aife ? " " Indeed, 
and I do remember," answered Cuchulain. " If thou 
rememberest, let us begin ^ with them." ^ 

^•••* Stowe, and, similarly, Eg. io6 and Eg. 209. 

^•••'* Stowe, and, similarly. Eg. 106 and Eg. 209. ^--^ Stowe. 

244 * Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3555. They betook them to their choicest deeds of arms. They 

took upon them two equally-matched shields for feats, 
and their eight-edged targes for feats, and their eight small 
darts, and their eight straightswords with ornaments of 
walrus-tooth and their eight lesser, ivoried spears which 

*LL. fo. 84b. flew from them and to them like bees * on a day of fine 

They cast no weapon that struck not. Each of 
them was busy casting at the other with those missiles 
from morning's early twilight till noon at mid-day, the while 
they overcame their various feats with the bosses and 
hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence 
of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excel- 
lence of the defence, so that during all that time neither of 
them bled or reddened the other. " Let us cease now from 
this bout of arms, O Cuchulain," saidFerdiad; "for it is 
not by such our decision will come." " Yea, surely, let 
us cease, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. 
^ Then ^ they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from 
them into the hands of their charioteers. 

" To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cuchulain ? " 
asked Ferdiad. " Thine is the choice of weapons till night- 
fall," replied Cuchulain ; " for thou art he that didst first 
reach the ford." " Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, " with 
our straight-cut, smooth-hardened throwing-spears, with 
cords of full-hard flax on them." " x\ye, let us begm then," 
assented Cuchulain. Then they took on them two hard 
shields, equally strong. They fell to their straight-cut, 
smooth-hardened spears with cords of full-hard flax on 
them. Each of them was engaged in casting at the other 
with the spears from the middle of noon ^ till yellowness 
came over the sun ^ at the hour of evening's sundown. 
However great the excellence of the defence, equally great 
was the excellence of the throwing on either side, so tha 
1--1 Stowe. 2....2 H. 2. 12. 


The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 245 

J, 3578. each of them bled and reddened and wounded the other 
during that time. ^ " Wouldst thou fain make a truce, O 
Cucugan ? " " asked Ferdiad. " It would please me," replied 
Cuchulain ; ** for whoso begins with arms has the right to 
desist." ^ " Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain," 
said Ferdiad. " Aye, let us leave off, an the time hath 
come," answered Cuchulain. So they ceased. They threw 
their arms from them into the hands of their charioteers. 
Thereupon each of them went toward the other ^ in the 
middle of the ford,^ and each of them put his hand on the 
other's neck and gave him three kisses ^in remembrance 
of his fellowship and friendship. ^ Their horses were in 
one and the same paddock that night, and their charioteers 
at one and the same fire ; and their charioteers made ready 
a litter-bed of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded 
men on them. Then came healing and curing folk to heal 
and to cure them, and they laid healing herbs and grasses 
and a curing charm on their cuts and stabs, their gashes 
and many wounds. Of every healing herb and grass and 
curing charm that *was brought from the fairy dwellings 
of Erin to Cuchulain and * was applied to the cuts and stabs, 
to the gashes and many wounds of Cuchulain, a like portion 
thereof he sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, ^to 
put to his wounds and his pools of gore,^ so that the men of 
Erin should not have it to say, should Ferdiad fall at his 
hands, it was more than his share of care had been given 
to him. 

Of every food and of every savoury, soothing and strong 
drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a 
like portion thereof he sent over the ford northwards to 
Cuchulain ; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numer- 
ous than the purveyors of Cuchulain. All the men of Erin 
were purveyors to Ferdiad, to the end that he might keep 

1-1 H. 2. 12. 2-2 H. 2. 12. 3-3 H. 2. 12. 

4--* H. 2. 12. ^•••« H. 2. 12. « See note, page 185. 

246 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3598. Cuchulain off from them. But only the inhabitants of Mag 
Breg ('the Plain ofBreg') were purveyors to Cuchulain. 
They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to 
converse with him. 

They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they 
arose and went their ways to the ford of combat. " To 
what weapons shall we resort on this day, O Ferdiad ? " 
♦, asked Cuchulain.* "Thine is the choosing of weapons 
till night time,'' Ferdiad made answer, " because it was I 
had my choice of weapons on the day aforegone." " Let 
us take, then," said Cuchulain, " to our great, well- tempered 
lances to-day, for we think that the thrusting will bring 
nearer the decisive battle to-day than did the casting of 
yesterday. Let our horses be brought to us and our chariots 
yoked, to the end that we engage in combat over our horses 
and chariots on this day." " Aye, let us go so," Ferdiad 
assented. Thereupon they girded two full-firm broad- 
shields on them for that day. They took to their great, 
well-tempered lances on that day. Either of them began 
to pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the other, 
from early morning's twilight till the hour of evening's 
close. If it were the wont for birds in flight to fly through 
the bodies of men, they could have passed through their 
bodies on that day and carried away pieces of blood and 
flesh through their wounds and their sores into the clouds 
and the air all around. And when the hour of evening's close 
was come, their horses were spent and their drivers were 
wearied, and they themselves, the heroes and warriors of 
valour, were exhausted. " Let us give over now, O Fer- 
diad," said Cuchulain, " for our horses are spent and our 
drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, why should 
we too not be exhausted ? " And in this wise he spake, 
and he uttered these words at that place : — 

" We need not our chariots break — 
This, a struggle fit for giants. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 247 

•^ 0626 Place the hobbles on the steeds, 

Now that din of arms is o'er ! " 

" Yea, we will cease, if the time hath come," replied 
Ferdiad. They ceased ^then.i They threw their arms 
away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Each 
of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his hand on 
the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses 
were in the one pen that night, and their charioteers at the 
one fire. Their charioteers prepared ^ two ^ litter-beds 
of fresh rashes for them with pillows for wounded men on 
them. The curing and healing men came to attend and 
watch and mark them that night ; for naught else could 
they do, because of the direfulness of their cuts and their 
stabs, their gashes and their numerous wounds, but apply 
to them philtres and spells and charms, to staunch their 
blood and their bleeding and their deadly pains. Of every 
magic potion and every spell and every charm that was 
applied to the cuts and stabs of Cuchulain, their like share 
he sent over the ford westwards to Ferdiad. Of every 
food and every savoury, soothing and strong drink that 
was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, an equal portion 
he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain, for the 
victuallers of Ferdiad were more numerous than the 
victuallers of Cuchulain. For all the men of Erin were 
Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he might ward off Cu- 
chulain from them. But the indwellers of the Plain of Breg 
alone were Cuchulain's nourishers. They were wont to 
come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him. 

They abode there that night. Early on the morrow 
they arose and repaired to the ford of combat. Cuchulain 
marked an evil mien and a dark mood that day ^ beyond 
every other day ^ on Ferdiad. "It is evil thou appearest 
to-day, O Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain ; " thy hair has 

*— ^ Stowe. 2...2 stowe. ^--^ Eg. 209 and Eg. 106. 

248 * Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3653. become dark" to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy, 
* LL. fo. 85b. and thine upright form * and thy features and thy gait 
have gone from thee ! " *' Truly not for fear nor for dread 
of thee is that happened to me to-day," answered Ferdiad ; 
" for there is not in Erin this day a warrior I could not 
repel ! '* ^ " Alas, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, " a pity 
it is for thee to oppose thy foster-brother and thy comrade 
and friend, on the counsel of any woman in the world ! " 
" A pity it is, O Cuchulain," Ferdiad responded. " But, 
should I part without a struggle with thee, I should be in 
ill repute forever with Medb and with the nobles of the four 
grand provinces of Erin." " A pity it is, O Ferdiad," said 
Cuchulain ; " not on the counsel of all the men and women 
in the world would I desert thee or would I do thee harm. 
And almost would it make a clot of gore of my heart to be 
combating with thee 1 " ^ 

And Cuchulain lamented and moaned, and he spake 
these words and Ferdiad responded : — 

Cuchulain : " Ferdiad, ah, if it be thou. 

Well I know thou'rt doomed to die ! 
To have gone at woman's hest. 
Forced to fight thy comrade sworn ! " 
Ferdiad : " O Cuchulain — ^wise decree — 
Loyal champion, hero true, 
Each man is constrained to go 
'Neath the sod that hides his grave ! " 

Cuchulain : " Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair. 
Stately maiden though she be, 
Not for love they'll give to thee, 
But to prove thy kingly might ! " 
Ferdiad : " Provdd was my might long since, 
Cu of gentle spirit thou. 
Of one braver I've not heard ; 
Till to-day I have not found ! " 

Cuchulain : " Thou art he provoked this fight. 
Son of Daman, Dare's son. 
To have gone at woman's word. 
Swords to cross with thine old friend ! " 

• An unusual colour of the hair betokened misfortune. 
i-» Eg. 106. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 249 

o()yq Ferdiad : " Should we then unf ought depart, 

Brothers though we are, bold Hound, 
111 would be my word and fame 
With Ailill and Cruachan's Medb ! " 

Cuchulain : " Food has not yet passed his lips, 
Nay nor has he yet been born. 
Son of king or blameless queen. 
For whom I would work thee harm ! " 

Ferdiad : " Culann's Hound, with floods of deeds, 
Medb, not thou, hath us betrayed ; 
Fame and victory thou shalt have; 
Not on thee we lay our fault ! " 

Cuchulain : " Clotted gore is my brave heart. 
Near I'm parted from my soul ; 
Wrongful 'tis — ^with hosts of deeds — 
Ferdiad, dear, to fight with thee ! " 

^ After this colloquy, Ferdiad spake : ^ " How much so- 
ever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, 
2 " f or my ill-boding mien and evil doing, it will be as an 
offset to my prowess." And he said, ^ " To what weapons 
shall we restort to-day ? " " With thyself is the choice of 
weapons to-day till night time," replied Cuchulain, "for 
it is I that chose on the day gone by." " Let us resort, 
then," said Ferdiad, " to our heavy, hard-smiting swords 
tiiis day, for we trow that the smiting each other will bring 
ais nearer to the decision of battle to-day than was our 
piercing each other on yesterday." " Let us go then, by 
all means," responded Cuchulain. 

Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them 
for that day. They turned to their heavy, hard-smiting 
swords. Each of them fell to strike and to hew, to lay low 
and cut down, to slay and undo ^ his fellow,^ till as large 
as the head of a month-old child was each lump and each 
cut, * each clutter and each clot of gore * that each of them 
took from the shoulders and thighs and shoulder-blades of 
the other. 

1-1 Stowe, Eg. 106. 2-2 Eg. 106. 

3--3 Stowe, Eg. 106. 4-* Eg. 106. 

250 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3708. Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this 

way from the twiUght of early morning till the hour of even- 
ing's close. " Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain ! " 
cried Ferdiad. " Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come," 
said Cuchulain. They parted ^ then, and ^ threw their arms 
away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Though 
it had been the meeting of two happy, blithe, cheerful, 
joyful men, their parting that night was of two that were 
sad, sorrowful and full of suffering. 2 They parted without 
a kiss a blessing or aught other sign of friendship, and 
their servants disarmed the steeds, the squires and the 
heroes ; no healing or curing herbs were sent from Cuchu- 
lain to Ferdiad that night, and no food nor drink was 
brought from Ferdiad to him.^ Their horses were not in 
the same paddock that night. Their charioteers were not 
at the same fire. 

They passed there that night. It was then that Ferdiad 
arose early on the morrow and went alone to the ford of 
combat, ^ and dauntless, vengeful and mighty was the man 
that went thither that day, even Ferdiad son of Daman. ^ 
For he knew that that would be the decisive day of the 
battle and combat ; and he knew that one or other of them 
would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. 
It was then he donned his battle-weed of battle and fight 
*LL. fo. 86a. and combat,* or ever Cuchulain came to meet him. And 
thus was the manner of this harness of battle and fight and 
combat : He put his silken, glossy trews with its border 
of speckled gold, next to his white skin. Over this, outside, 
he put his brown-leathern, well-sewed kilt. Outside of 
this he put a huge, goodly flag, the size of a millstone, * the 
shallow (?) stone of adamant which he had brought from 
Africa and which neither points nor edges could pierce.* 
He put his solid, very deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron 
over the huge, goodly flag as large as a millstone, through 
1--1 Stowe. 2. ..2 H. 2. 12. 3...3 Eg^ 106. 4—4 Eg. 209. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 251 

IT. 3730. fear and dread of the Gae Bulga on that day. About his 
head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight and 
combat, whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully 
adorning it and studded with red-enamel and crystal and 
rubies and with ^ shining stones ^ of the Eastern world. 
His angry, fierce-striking spear he seized in his 
right hand. On his left side he himg his curved battle- 
falchion, 2 which would cut a hair against the stream with 
its keenness and sharpness, ^ with its golden pommel and its 
rounded hilt of red gold. On the arch-slope of his back he 
slung his massive, fine-buffalo shield ^ of a warrior, ' 
whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown 
in each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of 
red gold. Ferdiad performed divers, brilliant, manifold, 
marvellous feats on high that day, unlearned from any one 
before, neither from foster-mother nor from foster-father, 
neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aife, 
but he found them of himself that day in the face of Cuchu^ 

Cuchulain likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the 
various, brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad 
performed on high. " Thou seest yonder, O Laeg my 
master, the divers, bright, numerous, marvellous feats that 
Ferdiad performs on high, and I shall receive yon feats one 
after the other, and, therefore, * O Laeg," cried Cuchulain,*- 
" if defeat be my lot this day, do thou prick me on and taunt 
me and speak evil to me, so that the more my spirit and anger 
shaU rise in me. If, however, before me his defeat takes 
place, say thou so to me and praise me and speak me fair, 
to the end that the greater may be my courage ! " ** It 
shall surely be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Laeg answered. 
Then Cuchulain, too, girded his war-harness of battle and 

^•••^ Reading with Egerton io6, which gives better sense than 
LL.'s ' brilhant plants.' 

^'■•^ Eg. 209. 3-3 Stowe and Eg. 209. *•••* Stowe. 

252 ' Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 3757. fight and combat about him, and performed all kinds of 
splendid, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day which 
he had not learned from any one before, neither with 
Scathach nor with Uathach nor with Aife. 

Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be 
plied against him in turn. *' To what weapons shall we resort 
^ to-day, 1 O Ferdiad ? '* asked Cuchulain. " With thee is 
thy choice of weapons till night time," Ferdiad responded. 
" Let us go to the ^ Feat of the Ford,' then," said Cuchu- 
lain. " Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit 
Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it the most grievous thing 
whereto he could go, for he knew that in that sort Cuchu- 
lain used to destroy every hero and every battle-soldier who 
fought with him in the ' Feat of the Ford.' 

Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford 
that day. The two heroes, the two champions, the two 
chariot-fighters of the west of Europe, the two bright 
torches of valour of the Gael, the two hands of dispensing 
favour and of giving rewards ^ and jewels and treasures ^ 

*LL. fo. 86b. in the west of the northern world,* ^ the two veterans ^ 
of skill and the two keys of bravery of the Gael, ^ the man 
for quelling the variance and discord of Connacht, the man 
for guarding the cattle and herds of Ulster,* to be brought 
together in encounter as from afar, ^ set to slay each other 
or to kill one of them,^ through the sowing of dissension 
and the incitement of Ailill and Medb. 

Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those 
deeds of arms from early morning's gloaming till the middle 
of noon. When mid-day came, the rage of the men became 
wild, and each drew nearer to the other. 

Thereupon Cuchulain gave one spring once from the 
bank of the ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad 
macDaman's shield, seeking to reach his head and to strike 

1--1 Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. 3... 3 Reading with Stowe. 

*•••* Eg. 106. ^'"^ Stowe and Eg. 106. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 253 

3779. it from above over the rim of the shield. Straightway 
Ferdiad gave the shield a blow with his left elbow, so that 
Cuchulain went from him like a bird onto the brink of the 
ford. Again Cuchulain sprang from the brink of the ford, 
so that he alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's 
shield, that he might reach his head and strike it over the 
rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad gave the shield 
a thrust with his left knee, so that Cuchulain went from 
him like an infant onto the bank of the ford, 

Laeg espied that. '* Woe then, ^ O Cuchulain ! " ^ cried 
Laeg ; ^ " meseems 2 the battle- warrior that is against thee 
hath shaken thee as a fond woman shakes her child. He 
hath washed thee as a cup is washed in a tub. He hath 
ground thee as a mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced 
thee as a tool bores through an oak. He hath bound thee 
as the bindweed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee 
as a hawk pounces on little birds, so that no more hast thou 
right or title or claim to valour or skill in arms till the very- 
day of doom and of life, thou little imp of an elf-man ! '* 
cried Laeg. 

Thereat for the third time, Cuchulain arose with the 
speed of the wind, and the swiftness of a swallow, and the 
dash of a dragon, and the strength (of a lion)^ into the clouds ^ 
of the air, till he aUghted on the boss of the shield of Ferdiad 
son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he might strike 
it from above over the rim of his shield. Then it was 
that the battle-warrior gave the shield a * violent and power- 
ful * shake, so that Cuchulain flew from it into the middle 
of the ford, the same as if he had not sprung at all. 

It was then the first twisting-fit of Cuchulain took place, 
so that a swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a 
bladder, until he made a dreadful, terrible, many-coloured, 
wonderful bow of himself, so that as big as a giant or a man 

»•••» Stowe. 2...2 stowe. ^-^ Stowe. *•••* Stowe.. 

254 ' '^^i^ ^^ Cualnge 

"W. 3805- of the sea was the hugely-brave warrior towering directly 
over Ferdiad. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 
their heads encountered above and their feet below and 
their hands in the middle over the rims and bosses of the 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 

their shields burst and split from their rims to their centres. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 

their spears bent and turned and shivered from their tips 

to their rivets. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 
the boccanach and the bananach (' the puck-faced Fays ' 
and * the white-faced Fays ') and the sprites of the glens 
and the eldritch beings of the air screamed from the rims 
of their shields and from the guards of their swords and 
from the tips of their spears. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 
they forced the river out of its bed and out of its course, 
♦LL.'fo. 87a. so that there might have been a recHning place * for a king 
or a queen in the middle of the ford, and not a drop of water 
was in it but what fell there with the trampling and shpping 
which the two heroes and the two battle-warriors made in 
the middle of the ford. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that 
the steeds of the Gael broke loose affrighted and plunging 
with madness and fury, so that their chains and their 
shackles, their traces and tethers snapped, and the women 
and children and pygmy-folk, the weak and the madmen 
among the men of Erin brake out through the camp south- 

At that time they were at the edge-feat of swords. It 
was then Ferdiad caught Cuchulain in an unguarded moment, 
and he gave him a thrust with his tusk-hilted blade, so that 
he buried it in his breast, and his blood fell into his belt. 


The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 255 

till the ford became crimsoned with the clotted blood from 
the battle-warrior's body. Cuchulain endured it not under 
Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing, heavy blows, and 
his long strokes and his mighty, middle slashes at him. 

^ Then Cuchulain bethought him of his friends from 
Faery and of his mighty folk who would come to defend 
him and of his scholars to protect him, what time he would 
be hard pressed in the combat. It w^as then that Dolb and 
Indolb arrived to help and to succour their friend, namely 
Cuchulain, 2 and one of them went on either side of him 
and they smote Ferdiad, the three of them, and Ferdiad 
did not perceive the men from Sid (* the Faery Dwelling ') 2. 
Then it was that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together 
smiting his shield against him, and he gave all his care and 
attention thereto, and thence he called to mind that, when 
they were with Scathach and with Uathach ^ learning 
together, Dolb and Indolb used to come to help Cuchulain 
out of every stress wherein he was.^ Ferdiad spake : 
" Not alike are our foster-brothership and our comradeship, 
O Cuchulain," quoth he. " How so, then ? " asked Cuchu- 
lain. *' Thy friends of the Fairy-folk have succoured thee, 
and thou didst not disclose them to me before," said Ferdiad. 
" Not easy for me were that," answered Cuchulain ; *' for 
if the magic veil be once revealed to one of the sons of 
Mile," none of the Tuatha De Danann (* the Folk of the 
Goddess Danu ') will have power to practise concealment or 
magic. And why complainest thou here, * O Ferdiad ? " 
said Cuchulain.* '* Thou hast a horn skin whereby to 
multiply feats and deeds of arms on me, and thou hast 
not shown me how it is closed or how it is opened." 

Then it was they displayed all their skill and secret 
cunning to one another, so that there was not a secret of 

^•'•^ Stowe, H. I, 13. Eg. 106 and Eg. 209. 

2-8 Eg. 106. 3-3 Eg. 106. *•••* Eg. 106. 

* That is, the Milesians, the ancestors of the Irish. 

256 ' Tain Bo Cuainge 

W. 3851. either of them kept from the other except the Gae Bulga, 
which was Cuchulain's. Howbeit, when the Fairy friends- 
found Cuchulain had been wounded, each of them inflicted 
three great, heavy wounds on him, on Ferdiad, to wit. 
It was then that Ferdiad made a cast to the right, so that 
he slew Dolb with that goodly cast. Then followed the 
two woundings and the two throws that overcame him, 
till Ferdiad made a second throw towards Cuchulain's left, 
and with that throw he stretched low and killed Indolb dead 
on the floor of the ford. Hence it is that the story-teller 
sang the rann : — 

" Why is this called Ferdiad's Ford, 
E'en though three men on it fell ? 
None the less it washed their spoils — 
It is Dolb's and Indolb's Ford ! " 

What need to relate further ! When the devoted,, 
equally great sires " ^ and cliampions,^ and the hard, battle- 
victorious wild beasts that fought for Cuchulain had fallen, 
it greatly strengthened the courage of Ferdiad, so that he 
gave two blows for every blow of Cuchulain's. When Laeg 
( son of Riangabair saw his lord being overcome by the 
crushing blows of the champion who oppressed him, Laeg 
began to stir up and rebuke Cuchulain, in such a way that 
a swelling and an inflation filled Cuchulain ^ from top to 
ground,^ as the wind fills a spread, open banner, so that 
he made a dreadful, wonderful bow of himself hke a sky- 
bow in a shower of rain, and he made for Ferdiad with the 
violence of a dragon or the strength of a blood-hound. ^ 

And Cuchulain called for the Gae Bulga from Laeg son 
of Riangabair. This was its nature : With the stream 
it was made ready, and from between the fork of the foot 

*» Cuchulain was partly of divine birth, on one side the son of 
Lugh lai r h-fhada ( ' Lug long-hand ') , the Irish sun-god ; on the earthly- 
side he had also a mortal father, Sualtaim or Sualtach. 

1—1 See notes page 255. 2.. .2 jj. i. 13. 3. ..3 gg^ 106^ 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 257 

J874. it was cast ; the wound of a single spear it gave when enter- 
ing the body, and thirty " barbs had it when it opened, 
and it could not be drawn out of a man's flesh till ^ the 
flesh 1 had been cut about it. 

2 Thereupon Laeg came forward to the brink of the river 
and to the place where the fresh water was dammed, and 
the Gae Bulga was sharpened and set in position. He 
filled the pool and stopped the stream and checked the 
tide of the ford. Ferdiad's charioteer watched the work, 
for Ferdiad had said to him early ^ in the morning : ^ " Now, 
gilla, do thou hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will 
hold back Cuchulain from thee ^ and thy men forever." * 
" This is a pity/' quoth the henchman ; "no match for 
him am I ; for a man to combat a hundred is he ^ amongst 
the men of Erin,^ and that am I not. Still, however slight 
his help, it shall not come to his lord past me." 

^ Thus were the henchmen : two brothers were they, 
namely. Id ^ son of Riangabair, and Laeg " son of Riangabair. 
As for Id son of Riangabair,^ he was then watching his 
brother ' thus making the dam ^ till he filled the pools and 
went to set the Gae Bulga downwards. It was then that 
Id went up and released the stream and opened the dam 
I and undid the fixing of the Gae Bulga. Cuchulain became 
deep purple and red all over when he saw the setting undone 
on the Gae Bulga. He sprang from the top of the ground 
so that he alighted light and quick on the rim of Ferdiad's 
shield. Ferdiad gave a ® strong ® shake to the shield, sa 
that he hurled Cuchulain the measure of nine paces out 
to the westward over the ford. Then Cuchulain caUed and 
shouted to Laeg to set about preparing the Gae Bulga for 
him. Laeg hastened to the pool and began the work. Id 

• ' Twenty four,' YBL. 39b, 23, and Eg. io6 ; but ' five,' Eg. 209. 
*-*'^ Stowe. ^'-^ Stowe, Eg. 106, Eg. 209. 
'•••* Eg. 106. *•••* Eg. 209. ^"-^ Eg. 106. 
••••• Eg. 106. 

* Ferdiad's charioteer. * Cuchulain's charioteer. 
'•••' Eg. 106. ••••• Eg. 106. 


258 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3895. ran and opened the dam and released it before the stream. 
Laeg sprang at his brother and they grappled on the spot. 
Laeg threw Id and handled him sorely, for he was loath to 
use weapons upon him. Ferdiad pursued Cuchulain west- 
wards over the ford. Cuchulain sprang on the rim of the 
shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so that he sent Cuchulain 
the space of nine paces eastwards over the ford. Cuchulain 
called and shouted to Laeg, ^ and bade him stop the stream 
and make ready the spear. ^ Laeg attempted to come nigh 
it, but Ferdiad's charioteer let him not, so that Laeg turned 
on him and left him on the sedgy bottom of the ford. He 
gave him many a heavy blow with clenched fist on the face 
and countenance, so that he broke his mouth and his nose 
and put out his eyes and his sight, ^ and left him lying 
wounded (?) and full of terror. ^ And forthwith Laeg left 
him and filled the pool and checked the stream and stilled 
the noise of the river's voice, and set in position the Gae 
Bulga. After some time Ferdiad's charioteer arose from 
his death-cloud, and set his hand on his face and counten- 
ance, and he looked away towards the ford of combat and 
saw Laeg fixing the Gae Bulga. He ran again to the pool 
and made a breach in the dike quickly and speedily, so that 
the river burst out in its booming, bounding, bellying, bank- 
breaking billows making its own wild course. Cuchulain^ 
became purple and red all over when he saw the setting of 
the Gae Bulga had been disturbed, and for the third time 
he sprang from the top of the ground and alighted on the 
edge of Ferdiad's shield, so as to strike him over the shield \ 
from above. Ferdiad gave a blow with his left knee against 
the leather of the bare shield, so that Cuchulain was thrown 
into the waves of the ford. 

Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to Cuchu- 
lain. Cuchulain cried and shouted ^loudly* to Laeg to 
make ready the iGae Bulga for him. Laeg attempted to 
1--1 Eg. 106. ^"-^ Eg. 106. ^•*-* Eg. 106. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 259 

3919. g^t ^^^r it' but Ferdiad 's charioteer prevented him. Then 
Laeg grew ^ very ^ wroth ^ at his brother ^ and he made a 
spring at him, and he closed his long, fuU-vaUant hands 
over him, so that he quickly threw him to the ground and 
straightway * bound * him. And ^ then ^ he went from 
him quickly and courageously, so that he filled the pool 
and stayed the stream and set the Gae Bulga. And he 
cried out to Cuchulain that it was served, for it was not to 
be discharged without a quick word of warning before it. 
Hence it is that Laeg cried out : — 

" Ware ! beware the Gae Bulga,* 
Battle-winning Culann's hound \ " et reliqua. 

* And he sent it to Cuchulain along the stream.* 

Then it was that Cuchulain let fly the white Gae Bulga 
from the fork of his irresistible right foot. ' Ferdiad began 
to defend the ford against Cuchulain, so that the noble Cu 
arose with the swiftness of a swallow and the wail of the 
storm-play in the rafters of the firmament, so that he laid 
hold of the breadth of his two feet of the bed of the ford, 
in spite of the champion.'' Ferdiad prepared for the feat 
according to the testimony thereof. He lowered his shield, 
so that the spear went over its edge into the watery, water- 
cold river. And he looked at Cuchulain, and he saw all his 
various, venomous feats made ready, and he knew not to 
which of them he should first give answer, whether to the 

* Fist's breast-spear,' or to the ' Wild shield's broad-spear/ 
or to the ' Short spear from the middle of the palm,' or to 
the white Gae Bulga over the fair, watery river. ^ 

^ When Ferdiad saw that his gilla had been thrown ^ 
and heard the Gae Bulga called for, he thrust his shield 
down to protect the lower part of his body. Cuchulain 
gripped the short spear ^ which was in his hand,^ cast it 


1...1 Eg. 


2" -2 See note 2, page 257. 

3...3 Eg. 


*•••* Reading with Eg. io6. 

^••'^ Eg. 


«•••« YBL. 39b, 20. '•••' Eg. 2 

^" « Eg. 


»•••» Stowe. 

26o ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3938. off the palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over 
the edge of the ^ corselet and ^ horn-skin, so that its farther 
half was visible after piercing his heart in his bosom. Fer- 
diad gave a thrust of his shield upwards to protect the upper 
part of his body, though it was help that came too late. 
The gilla set the Gae Bulga down the stream, and Cuchulain 
caught it in the fork of his foot, and ^ when Ferdiad raised 
his shield ^ Cuchulain threw the Gae Bulga as far as he could 
cast ^ underneath ^ at Ferdiad, so that it passed through 
the strong, thick, iron apron of wrought iron, and broke in 
three parts the huge, goodly stone the size of a millstone, 
so that it cut its way through the body's protection into 
him, till every joint and every limb was filled with its barbs. 
" Ah, that now sufficeth," sighed Ferdiad: " I am fallen 
of that ! But, yet one thing more : mightily didst thou 
drive with thy right foot. And 'twas not fair of thee for 
me to fall by thy hand." And he yet spake and uttered 
these words : — 

" O Cu of grand feats. 

Unfairly I'm slain ! 

Thy guilt clings to me ; 

My blood falls on thee ! 
" No meed for the wretch u 

Who treads treason's gap. 

Now weak is my voice; 

Ah, gone is my bloom ! 

" My ribs' armour bursts. 
My heart is all gore; 
I battled not well ; 
I'm smitten, O Cu ! 

* " Unfair, side by side, 
To come to the ford. 
'Gainst my noble ward * 
Hath Medb turned my hand ! 

" There'll come rooks and crows 
To gaze on my arms, 

1---1 Stowe. 2... 2 stowe and Eg. 209. 

'•••3 Stowe and Eg. 209. *• Reading taobh re taobh. 

* Omitting seng ; the line has a syllable too many in the original 
*•••* Eg. 106 {Revue Celtique, tome xi, p. 327). 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 261 

To eat flesh and blood. 
A tale, Cu, for thee ! " * 

3964. Thereupon Cuchulain hastened towards Ferdiad and 
clasped his two arms about him, and bore him with all his 
arms and his armour and his dress northwards over the 
ford, that so it should be ^ with his face ^ to the north " of 
the ford the triumph took place and not to the west * of the 
ford with the men of Erin.* Cuchulain laid Ferdiad there *LL. fo. 87b, 
on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came 
over Cuchulain there by the head of Ferdiad. Laeg espied 
it, and the men of Erin all arose for the attack upon him. 
" Come, O Cucuc," cried Laeg ; " arise now ^ from thy 
trance, 2 for the men of Erin will come to attack us, and it 
is not single combat they will allow us, now that Ferdiad 
son of Daman son of Dare is fallen by thee." " What 
availeth it me to arise, O gilla," moaned Cuchulain, " now 
that this one is fallen by my hand ? " In this wise the gilla 
spake and he uttered these words and Cuchulain responded : — 

Laeg : " Now arise, O Emain's Hound ; 

Now most fits thee courage high. 
Ferdiad hast thou thrown — of hosts — 
God's fate ! How thy fight was hard ! '* 

Cuchulain : " What avails me courage now ? 

I'm oppressed with rage and grief. 
For the deed that I have done 
On his body s worded sore ! " 

Laeg : "It becomes thee not to weep ; 
Fitter for thee to exult ! 
Yon red-speared one thee hath left 
Plaintful, wounded, steeped in gore ! " 

Cuchulain : " Even had he cleaved my leg, 

And one hand had severed too ; 

• Woe, that Ferdiad — who rode steeds — 
Shall not ever be in life ! " 

• ^ 

^'^ Eg. 106. 

• That is, in Ulster. Stowe and Eg. io6 read ' (with his face) to 
the south.' 

• That is. in Connacht. ^•••^ Stowe. 

262 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 3993. Laeg : " Liefer far what's come to pass, 

To the maidens of Red Branch ; 
He to die, thou to remain ; 
They grudge not that ye should part ! " 

Cuchulain : ** From the day I Cualnge left. 

Seeking high and splendid Medb, 
Carnage has she had — with fame — 
Of her warriors whom I've slain ! " 

Laeg : " Thou hast had no sleep in peace. 
In pursuit of thy great Tain ; 
Though thy troop was few and small. 
Oft thou wouldst rise at early morn ! " 

Cuchulain began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and 
he spake the words : 

" Alas, O Ferdiad," ^ spake he,^ " 'twas thine ill fortune 
thou didst not take counsel with any of those that knew 
my real deeds of valour and arms, before we met in clash 
of battle ! 

" Unhappy for thee that Laeg son of Riangabair did 
not make thee blush in regard to our comradeship ! 

" Unhappy for thee that the truly faithful warning of 
Fergus thou didst not take ! 

" Unhappy for thee that dear, trophied, triumphant, 
battle- victorious Conall counselled thee not in regard to 
our comradeship ! 

2 " For those men would not have spoken in obedience 
to the messages or desires or orders or false words of promise 
of the fair-haired women of Connacht. 

" For well do those men know that there will not be born 
a being that will perform deeds so tremendous and so great 
' 2 among the Connachtmen as I,^ till the very day of doom 
and of everlasting life, whether at handling of shield and 
buckler, at plying of spear and sword, at playing at draughts 
and chess, at driving of steeds and chariots." ^ 

* And he spake these warm words, sadly, sorrowfully 

in praise of Ferdiad : — * 

^■"^ Stowe. 

2 •••2 The order of these two paragraphs is that of Stowe ; they 
are found in the reverse order in LL. 

'•••' Reading with Stowe. *•••* Eg. 209. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 263 

4022. " There shall not be found the hand of a hero that will 
wound warrior's flesh, like cloud-coloured Ferdiad ! 

^ *' There shall not be heard from the gap ** the cry of 
red-mouthed Badb ^ to the winged, shade-speckled flocks ! ^ 

" There shall not be one that will contend for Cruachan 
that will obtain covenants equal to thine, till the very day 
of doom and of life henceforward, O red-cheeked son of 
Daman ! " said Cuchulain. 

Then it was that Cuchulain arose and stood over Ferdiad : 
" Ah, Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain " greatly have the men 
of Erin deceived and abandoned thee, to bring thee to con- 
tend and do battle * with me. For no easy thing is it to *LL. fo. 88a, 
contend and do battle with me on the Raid for the Kine of 
Cualnge ! ^ ^nd yet, never before have I found combat 
that was so sore or distressed me so as thy combat, save the 
combat with Oenfer Aife," mine one own son." ^ Thus he 
spake, and he uttered these words : — 

" Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death. 
Our last meeting, oh, how sad ! 
Thou to die, I to remain. 
Ever sad our long farewell ! 

" When we over yonder dwelt 
With our Scathach, steadfast, true. 
This we thought till end of time. 
That our friendship ne'er would end ! 

" Dear to me thy noble blush ; 
Dear thy comely, perfect form ; 
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear ; 
Dear thy wisdom and thy speech ! 

" Never strode to rending fight, 
Never wrath and manhood held. 
Nor slung shield across broad back. 
One like thee, Daman's red son 1 

1—* This difficult sentence is composed of two alliterating groups, 
which it is impossible to follow in the translation. 

• That is, the battle breach. 

* That is, the fury of war and carnage which appeared in the form 
of a carrion crow. 

*— 2 Stowe, Eg. io6 and Eg. 209. "That is, Conlaech. 

264 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4051. " Never have I met till now, 

Since I Oenfer Aife slew, 
One thy peer in deeds of arms, 
Never have I found, Ferdiad ! 

" Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair. 
Beauteous, lovely though she be. 
As a gad round sand or stones. 
She was shown to thee, Ferdiad ! " 

Then Cuchulain turned to gaze on Ferdiad. " Ah, my 
master Laeg," cried Cuchulain, " now strip Ferdiad and 
take his armour and garments off him, that I may see the 
brooch for the sake of which he entered on the combat and 
fight ^ with me." ^ Laeg came up and stripped Ferdiad. 
He took his armour and garments off him and he saw the 
brooch 2 and he placed the brooch in Cuchulain's hand,^ 
and Cuchulain began to lament and complain ^ over Fer- 
diad,3 and he spake these words : — 

" Alas, golden brooch ; 
Ferdiad of the hosts, 
O good smiter, strong. 
Victorious thy hand ! 

" Thy hair blond and curled, 
A wealth fair and grand. 
Thy soft, leaf-shaped belt 
Around thee till death ! 

" Our comradeship dear ; 
Thy noble eye's gleam ; 
Thy golden-rimmed shield ; 
Thy sword," treasures worth ! 

* " Thy white-silver torque 
Thy noble arm binds. 
Thy chess-board worth wealth ; 
Thy fair, ruddy cheek ! * 

" To fall by my hand, 
I own was not just ! 
'Twas no noble fight. 
Alas, golden brooch ! 

1—1 Stowe. 2.. .2 stowe. 3. ..3 stowe. 

« Reading with YBL. 39b, 31, as more intelligible than the ' chess- 
board ' of LL., which occurs in the next stanza. 
*-* YBL. 39b, 31-33. 

The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 265 

1 " Thy death at Cu's hand 
Was dire, O dear calf ! * 
Unequal the shield 
Thou hadst for the strife ! 

" Unfair was our fight. 
Our woe and defeat ! 
Fair the great chief ; 
Each host overcome 
And put under foot ! 
Alas, golden brooch ! " ^ 

4092. " Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain ; " now 
cut open Ferdiad and take the Gae Bulga out, because I 
may not be without my weapons." Laeg came and cut 
open Ferdiad and he took the Gae Bulga out of him. And 
Cuchulain saw his weapons bloody and red-stained by the 
side of Ferdiad, and he uttered these words : — 

" O Ferdiad, in gloom we meet. 
Thee I see both red and pale. 
I myself with unwashed arms ; 
Thou liest in thy bed of gore ! 

" Were we yonder in the East, 
Scathach and our Uathach near. 
There would not be pallid lips 
Twixt us two, and arms of strife ! 

" Thus spake Scathach trenchantly (?), 
Words of warning, strong and stern : 
' Go ye all to furious fight ; 
German, blue-eyed, fierce will come ! * 

" Unto Ferdiad then I spake. 
And to Lugaid generous. 
To the son of fair Baetan,* 
German we would go to meet ! 

" We came to the battle-rock. 
Over Lake Linn Formait's shore. 
And four hundred men we brought * 
From the Isles of the Athissech! 

" As I stood and Ferdiad brave 
At the gate of German's fort, 

* I slew Rinn the son of Nel ; *LL. fo. 88b. 

He slew Ruad son of Fomel ! 

»-i YBL. 39b, 35-39. 

* A term of endearment which survives in Modem Irish. 

* That is, Ferbaeth. * That is, as prisoners. 

266 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4.122 " Ferdiad slew upon the slope 

Blath, of Colba * Red-sword ' son. 
Lugaid, fierce and swift, then slew 
Mugairne of the Tyrrhene Sea ! 

" I slew, after going in. 
Four times fifty grim, wild men. 
Ferdiad killed — a furious horde — 
Dam Dremenn and Dam Dilenn ! 

" We laid waste shrewd German's fort 
O'er the broad, bespangled sea. 
German we brought home alive 
To our Scathach of broad shield ! 

" Then our famous nurse made fast 
Our blood-pact *• of amity. 
That our angers should not rise 
'Mongst the tribes of noble Elg ! 

" Sad the mom, a day in March, 
Which struck down weak Daman's son. 
Woe is me, the friend is fall'n 
Whom I pledged in red blood's draught ! « 

" Were it there I saw thy death. 
Midst the great Greeks' warrior-bands, 
I'd not live on after thee. 
But together we would die ! 

" Woe, what us befel therefrom. 
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings, 
Me sore wounded, red with blood. 
Thee no more to drive thy car ! 

" Woe, what us befel therefrom. 
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings. 
Me sore wounded, stiff with gore. 
Thee to die the death for aye ! 

*' Woe, what us befel therefrom, 
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings. 
Thee in death, me, strong, alive. 
Valour is an angry strife ! " 

" Good, O Ciicuc," spake Laeg, " let us leave this ford 
now ; too long are we here ! " " Aye, let us leave it, O my 
master Laeg," replied Cuchulain. " But every combat 
and battle I have fought seems a game and a sport to me 
compared with the combat and battle of Ferdiad.*' Thus 
he spake, and he uttered these words : — 

" Referring to the Celtic custom of binding an alliance by each 
of the parties thereto drinking the blood of the other. 


The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain 267 

" All was play, all was sport, 
Till came Ferdiad to the ford ! 
One task for both of us, 
Equal our reward. 
Our kind, gentle nurse 
Chose him over all ! 

" All was play, all was sport. 

Till came Ferdiad to the ford ! 

One our life, one our fear. 

One our skill in arms. 

Shields gave Scathach twain 

To Ferdiad and me ! 

" All was play, all was sport. 
Till came Ferdiad to the ford ! • 
Dear the shaft of gold " 
I smote on the ford. 
Bull-chief of the tribes. 
Braver he than all ! 

" Only games and only sport, 
Till came Ferdiad to the ford ! 
Lion, furious, flaming, fierce ; 
Swollen wave that wrecks like doom t 

" Only games and only sport. 
Till came Ferdiad to the ford ! 
Loved Ferdiad seemed to me 
After me would live for aye ! 
Yesterday, a mountain's size — 
He is but a shade to-day ! 

" Three things countless on the Tain 
Which have fallen by my hand : 
Hosts of cattle, men and steeds, 
I have slaughtered on all sides ! 

" Though the hosts were e'er so great. 
That came out of Cruachan wild. 
More than third and less than half. 
Slew I in my direful sport ! 

" Never trod in battle's ring ; 
Banba * nursed not on her breast ; 
Never sprang from sea or land. 
King's son that had larger fame ! " 

Thus far ^ the Combat of Ferdiad with Cuchulain ^ and 
the Tragical Death of Ferdiad. 

• That is, Ferdiad. * An old name for Ireland. 

^•••^ Stowe and Eg. 209. 



2 Now while the hosts proceeded from Ath Firdead (' Fer- 
diad's Ford ') southwards, Cuchulain lay in his sickbed in 
*LL. fo. 89a. that place. 2 * Then came certain men of the Ulstermen 
W. 4205. thither to help and succour Cuchulain. ^ Before all,^ 
Senoll Uathach and the two sons of Gege : Muridach and 
Cotreb, to wit. And they bore him to the streams and 
rivers of Conalle Murthemni, to rub and to wash his stabs 
and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds in the face of 
these streams and rivers. For the Tuatha De Danann 
(' the Tribes divine of Danu ') were wont to put herbs and 
plants of healing and a curing charm in the waters and 
rivers of the territory of ConaUe Murthemni, to help and 
to succour Cuchulain, so that the streams were speckled 
and green-topped therewith. 

Accordingly these are the names of the healing rivers 
of Cuchulain : — 

Sas, Buan, *Buas,* Bithslan, Findglas {'Whitewater'), 
Gleoir, Glenamain, Bedg, Tadg, Telameit, Rind, Bir, Bre- 
nide, Dichaem, Muach, Miliuc, Cumung, Cuilind, Gainemain, 
Drong, Delt, Dubglas (' Blackwater '). 

^ Then was the grave of Ferdiad dug by the men of Erin 
and his funeral games were held.^ 

^■••^ This sub-title is supplied by Windisch. 
2.. .2 YBL. 40a, 1-2. 3. ..3 YBL. 40a, 3. , 

4-4 Stowe. 5-5 Stowe. 




2 While now Cuchulain went to bathe in the waters, the 
hosts went by to the south till they pitched camp at Imorach 
4238. Smiromrach (' Edge of the Marrow-bath ').2 Then said the 
men of Erin to macRoth the chief runner, to go watch and 
keep guard for them at Sliab Fuait, to the end that the 
Ulstermen might not come upon them without warning 
and unobserved. Thereupon macRoth went ^ from the 
host southwards ^ as far as Sliab Fuait * to spy out the men 
of Ulster, to learn if any one came after them.* MacRoth 
was not long there when he saw something : a lone chariot 
on Sliab Fuait making from the north straight towards 
him. A fierce man, stark-naked, in that chariot coming 
towards him, without arms, without armour at all save 
an iron spit in his hand. In equal manner he goaded his 
driver and his horses ^ at one and the same time.^ And it 
seemed to him that he would never in his life come up to the 
hosts. And macRoth hastened to tell this news ® at the 
fort ® where Ailill and Medb and Fergus were and the nobles 
of the men of Erin. Ailill asked tidings of him on his 
arrival. " Aye, macRoth," inquired Aihll ; " hast thou seen 
any of the Ulstermen on the track of the host this day ? "^ 
" That, truly, I know not," answered macRoth ; " but I 
saw something: a lone chariot coming over SUab Fuait 

*•••* This heading is taken from the colophon of the episode^ 

«•••« YBL. 40a, 9-12. «•••» YBL. 40a, 12-13. 

*•••* YBL. 40a, 12-14. »— » Stowe. ••••• Stowe. 


270 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4252. ^ f rom the north ^ straight towards us. A ^ white, grey, 2 
wild, stark-naked man in the chariot, without arms or 
armour at all, except for an iron spit in his hand. In equal 
manner he prodded his driver and his steeds. It seemed 
to him he would never in his life come up to the host. ^ ^ 
brindled greyhound before him." ^ " Who, thinkest thou, 
might it be, O Fergus ? " asked Ailill. * " Is it Conchobar 
or Celtchar ? " * " Of a truth, ^ that is not likely," ^ 
Fergus answered ; " meseems it is Cethem son of ^ generous, 
red-edged ^ Fintan ^ from Line in the north ^ that came 
there. ^ And if so it be, ye shall be on your guard against 
him \ " ^ Fergus indeed spoke true, that it was Fintan's 
son Cethern that was come there. And so Cethern son 
of Fintan came on them, and the camp and the garrison 
were confounded and he wounded all around him in every 
direction and on all sides ^ and they wounded him in like 
manner.® And then ^° Cethem ^^ left them, ^^ and it was 
thus he went, and the front-guard of the chariot pressed up 
against his belly to keep his entrails and vitals within him,^^ 
^2 and his intestines were wound about his legs.^^ He came 
to the place where was Cuchulain, to be healed and cured, 
and he demanded a leech of Cuchulain to heal and to cure 
him. ^^ Cuchulain had compassion on his wounds ; ^^ 1* a 
bed of fresh rushes was made for him and a pillow set to 
it.^* " Come, master Laeg ! " cried Cuchulain. ^^ " Arise, ^^ 
away with thee to the garrison and camp of the men of 
*LL. fo. 89. Erin and summon * the leeches to come out to cure Cethem 
macFintain. I give my word, e'en though it be under the 

1-1 Stowe, and YBL. 41a, 10. 2...2 yBL. 41a, 11. 

3... 3 YBL. 41a, 15. *•••* YBL. 40a, 17. 

6-6 YBL. 40a, 17. 

«•••• YBL. 40a, 18. '•••' Stowe. 

8-..« Stowe and YBL. 41a, 10. »•••» Stowe. i»"-i° Stowe. 

11... 11 I have translated from the more circumstantial account in 
Stowe. LL. has, simply, ' his entrails and bowels outside on him.' 
12. ..12 YBL. 40a, 21. 13-13 YBL. 40a, 22. 

14.. .14 YBL. 40a, 23-24. 16. ..15 stowe. 

Cethern's Strait-fight 271 

4270. ground or in a well-shut house they are, I myself will bring 
death and destruction and slaughter upon them before this 
hour to-morrow, if they come not ^ to minister to Cethem." ^ 
Laeg went his way to the quarters and camp of the men 
of Erin, and he called upon the leeches of the men of Erin 
to go forth to cure Cethern son of Pint an. Truth to 
tell, the leeches of the men of Erin were unwilling to 
go cure their adversary, their enemy and their stranger- 
foe. But they feared Cuchulain would work death and 
destruction and slaughter upon them if they went not. 
And so they went. As one man of them ^ after the other ^ 
came to him, Cethem son of Fintan showed him his stabs 
and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds. ^ When 
the first leech that came looked at him, " thou wilt not 
live," he declared. " Neither wilt thou for this," replied 
Cethem. 3 Each man of them that said he would not Uve 
and could not be healed, Cethern son of Fintan struck 
him a blow with his right fist in the front of his forehead, 
so that he drove the brains out through the windows of his 
ears and the seams of his skull. Howbeit Cethern son 
of Fintan killed them till, by reason of him, there had come 
fifteen " leeches of the leeches of the men of Erin, * as the 
historian hath declared in proof thereof : — 

" These the leeches of the Tain, 
Who by Cethern — ^bane — did fall. 
No light thing, in floods of tribes. 
That their names are known to me : 

" Littd, Luaidren, known o'er sea, 
Lot and Luaimnech, ' White-hand ' Lonn, 
Latheimd skilful, also Lonn, 
Laisrd, Slanoll ' That cures all.' 

" Dubthach, Fintan's blameless son, 
Fintan, master Firfial, too, 
Maind, Boethan ' Gives not pain,' 
Eke his pupil, Boethan's son. 

1-1 YBL. 40a, 29. 2... 2 stowe. ^-^ YBL. 40a, 31-33. 

• ' Fifty or fifteen,' YBL. 40a, 35. 

272 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

" These the leeches, five and ten. 
Struck to death by Cethern, true ; 
I recall them in my day ; 
They are in the leeches' roll ! " * 

W. 4284. Yea, even the fifteenth leech, it was but the tip of a blow 
that reached him. Yet he fell lifeless of the great stun 
between the bodies of the other physicians and lay there 
for a long space and time. Ithall, leech of Ailill and Medb, 
was his name. 

Thereafter Cethern son of Fintan asked another leech 
of Cuchulain to heal and to cure him ^ forasmuch as the 
leeches of the men of Erin had failed him.^ " Come, master 
Laeg," quoth Cuchulain, " go for me to Fingin the seer- 
leech, at ' Fingin's Grave-mound ' at Leccan (' the Brow') 
of SUabFuait,2him that is ^ leech to Conchobar. Bid him 
come to heal Cethern son of Fintan." 

Laeg hastened to Fingin the seer-leech at ' Fingin's 
Grave-mound ' at Leccan of Sliab Fuait, to the leech of 
Conchobar. And he told him to go cure Cethern son of 
Fintan. Thereupon Fingin the prophet-leech came ^ with 
him to where Cuchulain and Cethern were.^ As soon as he 
was come, Cethern son of Fintan showed him his stabs 
and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds. 

4-* Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 18,748. ^-^ Stowe. 

2-2 YBL. 40a, 40. 3... 3 stowe. 



4299. 2 " Look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin," said 
Cethem.2 Fingin looked at the bloody wound. " Why, it 
is a shght, unwillingly given wound we behold here," said 
the leech ; ^ " even a wound that some one of thine own 
blood hath given thee, and no desire or wish had he thefe- 
for,3 and it will not carry thee off at once." " That, now, 
is true," exclaimed Cethem. " A lone man came upon 
me there ; bushy hair on him ; a blue mantle wrapped 
around him ; a silver brooch in the mantle over his 
breast ; an oval shield with plaited rim he bore ; a five- 
pointed spear in his hand ; a pronged spare spear at his 
side. He gave this bloody wound. He bore away a slight 
wound from me too." " Why, we know that man ! " cried 
Cuchulain ; " 'twas Illann Ilarchless (' Illann of many 
feats ') son of Fergus * macRoig.* And he would not wish 
that thou shouldst fall by his hand, but he gave thee this 
mock-blow that the men of Erin might not have it to say it 
was to betray them or to forsake them if he gave it not." 
" Now look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin my 
master," said Cethem. Fingin looked closely into the 
bloody wound. " Why, 'tis a woman's wanton deed of 
arms we behold here," said the leech ; ^ " namely the 
wound which a warrior- woman inflicted on thee," said 
he.^ " Aye, that is true then," quoth Cethem ; "a. woman 

^•••^ The heading is taken from LL. *•••* Stowe. 

»•••' Stowe. *-4 YBL. 41b, 19. ^...s stowe. 

273 T 

274 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4314. came upon me there by herself. A woman, beautiful, fair- 
faced, long-cheeked, tall ; a golden-yellow head of hair 
' down to the top of her two shoulder-blades she wore ; 
a smock of royal sammet next to her white skin ; ^ ^ j-^q 
birds of gold on her shoulders ; ^ a purple cloak without 
♦LL. fo. 00a. other colour she had around her ; * a brooch of gold in the 
cloak over her bosom ; a straight, ridged spear, red-flaming 
in her hand. She it was that gave me this bloody wound. 
She bore away a slight wound from me too." " Ah, but we 
know that woman," cried Cuchulain ; " Medb daughter 
of Eocho Fedlech, daughter of the High King of Erin ; it is 
she that came unto us in that dress. A victory and triumph 
and trophy she had considered it hadst thou fallen at her 

" Look at this bloody wound for me too,.0 Fingin my 
master," said Cethem. Fingin looked at the bloody wound. 
" Why, the feat of arms of two warriors is this," said the 
leech ; ^ " that is to say, two warriors inflicted these two 
wounds as one wound upon thee." ^ " Yea, that is true," 
answered Cethem. " There came two * men-at-arms * 
upon me in that place ; two, with bushy hair on them ; 
two blue cloaks wrapped around them ; brooches of 
silver in the cloaks over their breasts ; a necklace of all- 
white silver around the neck of each of them ; ^ two long 
shields they bore ; two hard chains of silver on each of 
them ; a band of silver around them ; two five-pointed 
spears they bore ; a vein of silver around them.^ ® They 
smote me this wound and I smote a little wound on each of 
them." ® " Indeed we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain 
" Oil and Othine they, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb ; 
they never go to a hosting, ' to battle or combat,' but when 
the wounding of a man is certain. They would have held 

1-1 Stowe. 2.. .2 YBL. 41b, 5. »-3 Stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. «•••» YBL. 41b, 21-26. ••••« Stowe. 

'•••' Stowe. 


Cethem's Bloody Wounds 275 

330. it for victory and triumph and a boast hadst thou fallen 
at their hands." 

" Look on this bloody wound also for me, O Fingin my 
master," said Cethern. Fingin looked closely at the bloody 
wound. " There came upon me a pair of young warriors 
of the Fian," ^ said Cethern ; ^ " a splendid, manly appear- 
ance they had. Each of them cast a spear at me. I drave 
this spear through the one of them." Fingin looked into 
the bloody wound. " Why, this blood is all black," 
quoth the leech ; " through thy heart those spears passed 
so that they formed a cross of themselves through thy heart, 
2 and thy healing and curing are not easy ; 2 and I prophesy 
no cure here, but I would get thee some healing plants and 
curing charms that they destroy thee not forthwith." 
" Ah, but we know them, that pair," quoth Cuchulain ; 
" Bun and Mecconn (* Stump ' and ' Root ') are they, of the 
bodyguard of Ailill and Medb. It was their hope that 
thou shouldst fall at their hands." 

" Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my 
master," said Cethern. Fingin examined the bloody wound. 
** Why, it is the red rush of the two sons of Ri Caild (* the 
King of the Woods ') that is here," said the leech. " Aye, 
*tis so," replied Cethern ; " there attacked me there two 
fair-faced, dark-browed youths, huge, with diadems of 
gold ^ on their heads. ^ Two green mantles folded about 
them ; two pins of bright silver on the mantles over their 
breasts ; two five-pronged spears in their hands." " Why, 
near each other are the bloody wounds they gave thee," 
said the leech ; " into thy gullet they went, so that the 
points of the spears struck one another within thee, and 
none the easier is it to work thy cure here." " We know 
that pair," quoth Cuchulain ; ^ " noble youths of Medb's 
great household,* Broen and Brudni, are they, ^ two * 

»•••> YBL. 41b, 30. 2. .2 stowe. »— » Stowe. 

♦•••* YBL. 41b. 41. '-" Stowe. ^ 

276 ' Tain Bo Ciialnge 

W. 4352. sons of Ri teora Soillse (' the King of the three Lights '), that 
is, the two sons of the King of the Woods. It had been 
victory and triumph and a boast for them, hadst thou 
fallen at their hands." 

" Look at this bloody wound for me, too, my good 
Fingin," said Cethern. Fingin looked into the bloody 
wound. " The joint deed of two brothers is here," said the 
leech. " 'Tis indeed true," replied Cethern. " There came 
upon me two leading, king's warriors. Yellow hair upon 
them ; dark-grey mantles with fringes, wrapped around 
them ; leaf-shaped brooches of silvered bronze in the 
mantles over their breasts ; broad, grey lances in their 
hands." " Ah, but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain ; 
" Cormac Colomon rig (' King's pillar ') is the one, and 
Cormac son of Mael Foga, of the bodyguard of Ailill and 
Medb (the other) . What they sought was that thou shouldst 
fall at their hands." 

" Look at this bloody wound for me too, O Fingin my 

*LL. fo. 90b. master," said Cethern.* Fingin looked into that bloody 
wound. " The assault of two brothers is here," said the 
leech. " Aye then, 'tis true," answered Cethern. " There 
came upon me two tender youths there ; very much alike 
were they ; curly ^ dark ^ hair on the one of them ; curly 
yellow hair on the other ; two green cloaks wrapped around 
them ; two bright-silver brooches in the cloaks over their 
breasts ; two tunics of smooth yellow silk ^ with hoods 
and red embroidery ^ next their skin ; ^ two ^ white-hilted 
swords at their belts ; two bright shields having the like- 
nesses of beasts in white silver they bore ; two five-pronged 
spears with veins of all-white silver in their hands." *' Ah, 
but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain ; " Mane ' Like 
. to his mother * and Mane * Like to his father,' two sons of 
AiUU and Medb ; and it would be matter of victory, 

1-1 YBL. 42a, 28. 2. ..2 YBL. 42a, 30-31. ='"-^ Stowe, 

Cethern's Bloody Wounds 277 

^377- triumph and boasting to them, hadst thou fallen at their 

" Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my 
master," said Cethem. " There came upon me a pair of 
young warriors of the Fian there. A brilHant appearance, 
stately- tall and manlike, they had ; wonderful garments from 
far-away countries upon them. Each of them thrust ^ the 
spear he had ^ at me. 2 Then ^ I thrust ^ this spear ^ 
through each of them." Fingin looked into the bloody 
wound. " Cunning are the bloody wounds they inflicted 
upon thee," said the leech ; *' they have severed the strings 
of thy heart within thee, so that thy heart rolls about in 
thy breast like an apple in motion or like a ball of yam in 
an empty bag, and there is no string at all to support it ; 

* and there is no means to cure thee or to save thee,* and 
no healing can I effect here." " Ah, but we know those 
twain," quoth Cuchulain ; "a pair of champions from 
Norway who, ^ because of their cunning and violence,^ have 
been sent particularly by Ailill and Medb to slay thee ; 
for not often does one ever issue alive from their combats, 
and it would be their will that thou shouldst fall at their 

" Look upon this bloody wound for me too, my good 
Fingin," said Cethem. Fingin looked at that bloody wound 
in like manner. " Why, the alternate woundings of a son 
and his father we behold here," answered the leech. " Yea, 
it is so," quoth Cethem ; *' two tall men, red as torches, 
came upon me there, with diadems of burnished gold upon 
them ; kingly garments they wore ; gold-hilted, hammered 
swords at their girdles, with scabbards of pure-white silver, 

* with a cunningly ornamented and dehcate embossing ® 
and supports of mottled gold outside upon them. " Ah, 
but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain ; " Ailill and his 

»•••» Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. ^-^ Stowe and YBL. 42a, i. 

*•••* Stowe. ''•"^ Stowe. *•••« Stowe. 

278 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4399. son are they, Mane ' That embraces the traits of them all.' 
They would deem it victory and triumph and a boast 
shouldst thou fall at their hands." 

Thus far the " Bloody Wounds " of the Tain. 

** Speak, O Fingin prophetic leech," spake Cethern son 
of Fintan ; " what verdict and what counsel givest me 
now ? " " This verily is what I say to thee," rephed Fingin 
the prophetic leech : " Count not on thy big cows for year- 
lings this year ; for if thou dost, it is not thou that will 
enjoy them, and no profit will they bring thee." " This 
is the judgement and counsel the other surgeons did give 
me, and certain it is it brought them neither advantage nor 
profit, and they fell at my hands ; and none the more Will 
it bring thee advantage or profit, and thou shalt fall at 
my hands ! " And he gave Fingin a strong, stiff kick 
with his foot, and sent him between the chariot's two wheels 
^ and the creaking of the chariot niight be heard afar 

" Oh, but vicious is the kick from the old warrior," 
cried Cuchulain ; ^ " 'twould be more fitting if thou 
shouldst ply it on foes than on leech ! " ^ Hence, from this 
saying, is the name Uachtar Lua (* the Height of the Kick ') 
in the land of Ross from then until this day. 
*LL. fo. 91a. Nevertheless * Fingin the prophet-leech gave his choice 
to Cethern son of Fintan : A long illness for him and after- 
wards to obtain help and succour, or a red ^ healing for the 
space of three days and three nights, so that he might then 
employ his strength on his enemies. What Cethern son 
of Fintan chose was a red healing for the space of three 
days and three nights, to the end that he might then vent 
3 his anger and ^ strength on his enemies. For what he 
said was that there would not be found after him any one 
he would rather have vindicate or avenge him than himself. 

1-1 Stowe. 2... 2 YBL. 42a, 50-51. 

• That is, ' extreme or drastic' '•••" Stowe 

Cethern's Bloody Wounds 279 

J420. Thereupon Fingin the prophetic leech cisked of Cuchulain 
a vat of marrow wherewith to heal and to cure Cethem 
son of Fintan. Cuchulain proceeded to the camp and en- 
trenchment of the men of Erin, and whatsoever he found 
of herds and flocks and droves there he took away with him. 
And he made a marrow-mash of their flesh and their bones 
and their skins ; and Cethern son of Fintan was placed 
in the marrow-bath till the end of three days and three 
nights. And his flesh began to drink in the marrow-bath 
about him and the marrow-bath entered in within his 
stabs and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds. There- 
after he arose from the marrow-bath at the end of three 
days and three nights, ^ and he slept a day and a night after 
taking in the marrow.^ 2 " j h^ve no ribs more,'' said 
Cethern ; " put the ribs of the chariot-box into me." " Thou 
shalt have it, ' ' Cuchulain made answer. ^ It was thus Cethem 
arose, with a slab of the chariot pressed to his belly so that 
his entrails and bowels would not drop out of him. ^ " Had 
I my own weapons," said Cethern, " the story of what I 
would do would live forever ! " ^ 

That was the time when his wife came from the north, 
from Dun da Benn ('Fort of the two Gables'), and she 
brought his sword with her, even Finna daughter of Eocho. 
* " What seest thou ? " asked Cethern.* ^ " Meseems," 
answered Cuchulain, " 'tis the chariot of little Finna, Eocho's 
daughter, thy wife, that comes nigh us." ^ * And they 
saw the woman, with the arms in the chariot.® Cethem 
son of Fintan ' seized his arms ^ and proceeded to attack 
the men of Erin, ® with the chariot-box bound around his 
back, for he was not the stronger therefor.^ But this is 
to be added : They sent a warning before him ; IthaU,» 
physician of Ailill and Medb, had remained as one dead of 

1-1 YBL. 42b, 7. «-2 YBL. 42b, 8-9. 3.. .3 YBL. 42b, lo-ii. 
*-* YBL. 42b, 13. 5. ..6 YBL. 42b, 14. 

«•••• YBL. 42b, 16. '•••' YBL.42b, 17. s.-syBL. 42b, 18-19. 
• See above, page 272. 

28o • Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 4436. "the great stun ^ from the blow of Cethern ^ among the 
bodies of the other leeches for a long space and time, ^ and 
continued in that state till then ; at last he rose and rushed 
to the encampment,^ ^ and he, the leech that had alone 
escaped from Cethern, brought the alarm to the camp.^ 

" Hark, ye men of Erin," shouted the leech ; *' Ce- 
thern son of Fin tan comes to attack you, now that he has 
been healed and cured by Fingin the prophetic leech, and 
take ye heed of him ! " Thereat the men of Erin * in fear * 
put Ailill's dress and his golden shawl ^ and his regal diadem ^ 
on the pillar-stone in Crich Ross, that it might be thereon 
that Cethern son of Fintan should first give vent to his 
anger on his arrival. ® Eftsoons ® Cethern ' reached 
the place where he ^ saw those things, namely Ailill's dress 
and his golden shawl around the standing-stone in Crich 
Ross, and he, being unaware and weetless, conceived it to 
be Ailill himself that was in it. And he made a rush at it 
like a blast of wind and drave the sword through the stone 
pillar till it went up to its pommel, ^ so that his fist went 
through it after the sword.^ " Deceit is here," cried 
Cethern son of Fintan, " and on me have ye worked this 
deceit. And I swear an oath, till there be found among 
ye * of the men of Erin ^ one that will put yon royal dress 
about him and the golden shawl, I will not stay my hand from 
them, slaughtering and destroying withal ! " 

Mane Andoe son of Ailill and Medb heard that, and he 
put ^^ his father's ^^ royal raiment about him and the golden 
shawl 1^ and the diadem on his head, and he snatched them 
up in his chariot before him ^^ and dashed off through the 
midst of the men of Erin. Cethern son of Fintan pursued 
him closely and hurled his shield the length of a cast at him, 

^•••1 Stowe. 2. ..2 stowe. 3... 3 YBL. 42b, 20. 

4". 4 YBL. 42b, 22. 5-6 Stowe. «•••« Stowe. 

'•••' Stowe. 8... 8 YBL. 42b, 24. ••••» Stowe. 

i». .10 Stowe. " •" YBL. 42b, 29-30. 


Cethem's Bloody Wounds 281 

^- 4454- SO that the chiselled rim of the shield clave him " to the 
ground, with chariot, driver, and horses. ^ When the men 
of Erin saw that,^ they surrounded Cethem on every side 
2 and made him a victim of spears and lances, ^ so that he 
fell at their hands in the strait wherein he was. Wherefore 
' Cethern's Strait-Fight and the Bloody Wounds of Cethem ' 
^ is the name of this tale.^ 

• His wife, Finna ^ daughter of Eocho Salbuide (' Yellow- 
heel ') stood over him and she was in great sorrow, and she 
made the funeral-song below : — 

" I care for naught, care for naught; 
Ne'er more man's hand 'neath my head. 
Since was dug the earthy bed, 
Cethern's bold, of Dun da Benn ! 

" Kingly Cethem, Fintan's son ; 
Few were with him on the ford. 
Connacht's men with all their host. 
For nine hours he left them not ! 

" Arms he bore not — ^this an art — 
But a red, two-headed pike ; 
With it slaughtered he the host. 
While his anger still was fresh ! 

" Felled by double-headed pike, 
Cethern's hand held, with their crimes,* 
Seven times fifty of the hosts, 
Fintan's son brought to their graves ! 

" Willa-loo, oh, willa-loo ! 
Woman's ^ wandering through the mist. 
Worse it is for him that's dead. 
She that hves may find a man ! * 

" Never I shall take a man ' 
Of the hosts of this good world ; 
Never shall I sleep with man ; 
Never shall my man with wife ! 

• Omitting i tri, ' in three ' ; it is not found in Stowe or in YBL. 
and seems out of place here. 

^•••1 Stowe. «-2 Stowe. »•••» Stowe. 

*•••* Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 18,748. 

• Keading Finna, to agree with the reading in LL., supra, page 279. 
Inn a, in Stowe, etc. 

• That is, unshrived of their sins (?), a Christian intrusion. 

• Literally, ' heifer's.' « Literally,' a bull.' 

282 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

^, 4485. " Dear the homestead, ' Horse-head's Dun,' • 

Where our hosts were wont to go. 
Dear the water, soft and sweet ; 
Dear the isle, ' Isle of the Red ! ' * 

" Sad the care, oh, sad the care, 
Cualnge 's Cow-raid brought on me : 
Cethem, Fintan's son, to keen. 
Oh that he had shunned his woe ! 

" Great the doings, these, oh, great. 
And the deed that here was done : 
I bewailing him till death. 
Him that has been smitten down ! 

" Finna, Eocho's daughter, I, 
Found a fight of circling spears. 
Had my champion had his arms : 
By his side a slaughtered heap ! " * 

• In Irish, Dun cind etch. * In Irish, Innis ruaidK 

4—4 See note 4, page 2^1. 



4502. FiNTAN, himself the son of Niall Niamglonnach (* of the 
brilliant Exploits ') from Dun da Benn ^ in the north,^ was 
father of Cethem son of Fintan. And he came to save the 
honour of Ulster and to avenge his son upon the hosts. 
Thrice fifty ^ with many pointed weapons ^ was his number. 
And thus it was they came, and two spear-heads on each 
shaft with them, a spear-head on the top and a spear-head 
at the butt, so that it made no difference whether they 
wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts. They 
offered three " battles to the hosts. And thrice their own 
number fell at their hands, and there fell also the people * *LL. io. 91b. 
of Fintan son of NiaU, all excepting Fintan's son Crimthann 
alone, ^ so that there did not escape any of his people except- 
ing himself and his son.^ This one was saved under a 
canopy of shields by Ailill and Medb. * And the son was 
separated from him, his father Fintan, and was saved 
by Ailill out of fear of Fintan and in order that Fintan might 
not wreak his fury on them till he should come with Con- 
chobar to the battle.* Then said the men of Erin, it would 
be no disgrace for Fintan son of Niall to withdraw from 
the camp and quarters, and that they would give up Crim- 
thann son of Fintan to him, and then the hosts would 
fall back a day's march to the north again ; and that he 

1-1 Stowe. 2... 2 YBL. 42b, 36. 

• ' Seven/ YBL. 42b, 38. a... 3 yBL. 42b, 38-39. 

*•••* YBL. 42b, 39-43. 


284 • Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 4515- should cease from his deeds of arms against the hosts till 
he would come to encounter them on the day of the great 
battle at the place where the four grand provinces of Erin 
would clash at Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the 
Cattle-reaving of Cualnge, as was foretold by the druids of 
the men of Erin. Fintan son of Niall consented to that, 
and they gave over his son to him. ^ He made friendship 
with them then when his son had been restored to him.^ 
He withdrew from the camp and station, and the hosts 
marched a day's journey back to the north again, to stop 
and cease their advance. ^ Thereafter Fintan went to his 
own land. 2 In this manner they found each man of the 
people of Fintan son of Niall and each man of the men of 
Erin, with the lips and the nose ^ and the ear ^ of each of 
them in the teeth and tusks of the other * after they had 
used up their arms.* The men of Erin gave thought to that : 
*' This is a tooth-fight for us," said they ; " the tooth-fight 
of Fintan's people and of Fintan himself." So this is the 
' Tooth-fight ' of Fintan. 

1-1 YBL. 42b, 43-44. 2-* Stowe. 3... 3 stowe. *•••* Stowe. 



^ 4529. 1 It was then came ^ to them ^ great ^ Menn son of Salcholga, 
he from Renna (' the Waterways ') of the Boyne ^ in the 
north. ^ Twelve** men * with many-pointed weapons,* that 
was his number. It was thus they came, and two spear- 
heads on each shaft with them, a spear-head on the top and a 
spear-head at the butt, so that it made no difference whether 
they wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts. 
They offered three attacks upon the hosts. Three times 
their own number fell at their hands and there fell twelve 
men of the people of Menn, ^ so that there remained alive 
of them but Menn alone.^ But Menn himself was ^ sorely * 
wounded in the strait, so that blood ran crimson on him 
^ and his followers too were crimsoned.' Then said the 
men of Erin: " Red is this shame," said they, " for Menn 
son of Salcholga, that his people, ^ twelve men,^ should be 
slain and destroyed and he himself wounded till blood ran 
crimson red upon him." Hence here is the * Reddening 
Shame of Menn,' ® the name of this tale on the Spoil of the 
Kine of Cualnge.® 

Then said the men of Erin, it would be no dishonour for 
Menn son of Salcholga to leave the camp and quarters, 
and that the hosts would go a day's journey back to the 

1-1 Stowe. 2-2 YBL. 42b. 45. '-3 Stowe. 

« ' Thirty,' YBL. 42b, 45. 4-* YBL. 42b, 46. 

5-^ Stowe. ••••• Stowe. '•••' YBL. 42b, 49. 

»-8 Stowe. »•••» Stowe. 


286 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4542J north again, and that Menn should cease his weapon-feats " 

on the hosts till Conchobar arose out of his * Pains ' and 

battle would be offered them at Garech and Ilgarech ^ on 

the day of the great battle when the men of Erin and of 

Ulster would meet together in combat in the great battle 

of the Cualnge Cow-spoil/ as the druids and soothsayers 

and the knowers of the men of Erin had foretold it. 

Menn son of Salcholga agreed to that, to leave the camp 

and halting-place. And the hosts fell back a day's march 

for to rest and wait, ^ and Menn went his way to his own 


« Following Windisch's emendation of the text. 
1-1 Stowe. 2.. .2 stowe. 




4551 • Then came the charioteers of the Ulstermen to them. 
Thrice fifty was their number. They offered three battles 
to the hosts. Thrice their number fell at their hands, and 
the charioteers themselves fell on the field whereon they 
stood. Hence this here is the * Accoutrement of the 
Charioteers.' ^ It is for this cause it is called the ' Accoutre- 
ment of the Charioteers,' because it is with rocks and with 
boulders and with clumps of earth they accomplished the 
defeat of the men of Erin.^ 

^•••1 Stowe. 




W. 4556. 2 CucHULAiN despatched his charioteer to ^ Rochad 
3 Rigderg (* Red-king') ^ son of Fathemon, * from Rigdorn 
in the north,* ^ that he should come to his aid.^ He was 
of Ulster. ^ The gilla comes up to Rochad and tells him, 
if he has come out of his weakness, to go to the help of Cuchu- 
lain, that they should employ a ruse to reach the host to 
seize some of them and slay them. Rochad set out from 
the north.® Thrice fifty " warriors was his number, and 
he took possession of a hill fronting the hosts. ' " Scan the 
plain for us to-day,'* said Ailill. " I see a company crossing 
the plain," the watchman answered, " and a tender youth 
comes in their midst ; the other warriors reach but up to 
his shoulder." " Who is that warrior, O Fergus ? " asked 
Ailill. " Rochad son of Fathemon," he answered ; " and 
it is to bring help to Cuchulain he comes. I know what ye 
had best do with him," Fergus continued. *' Let a hundred 
warriors go from ye with the maiden yonder to the middle 
of the plain and let the maid go before them, and let a 
horseman go tell Rochad to come alone to hold converse 
with the maid and let hands be laid on him, and thus shaU 
be removed all fear of his people from us.'' Finnabair, 

1—1 The LU. version of the ' White-fight,' which occurs much 
eariier (fo. 72a, edition of Strachan and O'Keeffe, Unes 1457 and fol.),. 
is incorporated with the LL. version above. 

»•••» LU. 1457. 3. ..3 YBL. 43a, 6. *•••* Stowe. 

»•••« LU. 1458. ••••« LU. 1460-1463. 

• ' One hundred fighting men,' LU. 1463. 

'— ' LU. 1463-1472. 


The White-fight of Rochad 289 

^. 4558. daughter of Ailill and Medb, perceived that and she went 
to speak to her mother thereof, even to Medb. ^ Now it 
happened that Finnabair loved Rochad. It is he was the 
fairest young warrior in Ulster at that time. ^ ^ And 
Finnabair disclosed her secret and her love *» to her mother. ^ 
" Truly have I loved yonder warrior for a long time," said 
she ; " and it is he is my sweetheart, ^ my first love ^ and 
mine own choice one in wooing * of the men of Erin." * 
" An thou hast ^ so ^ loved him, daughter," ® quoth Ailill 
and Medb,® " sleep with him this night and crave for us a 
truce of him for the hosts, until ^ with Conchobar ^ he en- 
counters us on the day of the great battle when four of the 
grand provinces of Erin will meet at Garech and Ilgarech 
in the battle of the Foray of Cualnge." 

^ This then is done. Rochad sets forth to meet the horse- 
man. " I am come," says the horseman, " from Finnabair 
to meet thee that thou come to speak with the maiden." 
Thereupon Rochad goes alone to converse with her. The 
army surrounds him on all sides ; he is seized and hands 
are laid on him ; his followers are routed and driven in 
flight. Afterwards he is set free and bound over not ta 
oppose AiHll's host till the time he wiU come with all the 
warriors of Ulster. Also they promise to give Finnabair 
to him.^ 

Rochad son of Fathemon accepted the offer ^ and there- 
upon he left them ^ and that night the damsel slept with 

An Under-king of Munster that was in the camp heard 
the tale. He went to his people to speak of it. " Yonder 
maiden was pHghted to me '^^ on fifteen hostages ^° once long^ 
ago," said he ; " and it is for this I have now come on this 

1—1 LU. 1458. 2... 2 stowe. • Literally, ' whisper.' 

»•••' YBL. 43a, 10. *"4 Stowe. ^...s yBL, 43a, 10. 

••••« YBL. 43a, 10. '•••' YBL. 43a, II. 

»•••» LU. 1472-1478. »•••» LU. 1478-1479. 
10.. .10 YBL. 43a, 17. 


290 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4568. hosting." Now wherever it happened that the seven" 
Under-kings of Munster were, what they all said was that 
it was for this they were come. ^ " Yonder maiden was 
pledged to each of us in the bargain as our sole wife, to the 
end that we should take part in this warfare." They all 
declared that that was the price and condition on which 
they had come on the hosting. ^ " Why," said they, 2 " what 
better counsel could we take ? ^ Should we not go to 
avenge our wife and our honour on the Mane ^ the sons of 
AiUll 3 who are watching * and guarding ^ the rear of the 
army at Imlech in Glendamrach (' Kettle-glen's navel) ? " 

This was the course they resolved upon. And with their 
seven divisions of thirty hundreds they arose, ^ each man 
of them to attack the Mane. When Ailill heard that,^ he 
arose ® with a start with ready shield ^ against them and 
thirty hundred ^ after them.*^ Medb arose with her thirty 
hundred. The sons of Maga with theirs and the Leinstermen 
and the Munstermen and the people of Tara. 

^ Then arose Fergus with his thirty hundred to intervene 
between them, and that was a hand for that mighty work.^ 
And a mediation was made between them so that each 
of them sat down near the other and hard by his arms. 
Howbeit before the intervention took place, eight hundred i 
very valiant warriors of them had fallen ® in the slaughter 
of Glenn Domain {' Deep Glen ').^ 

Finnabair, daughter of Aihll and Medb, had tidings that 
so great a number of the men of Erin had fallen for her sake 
and on account of her. And her heart broke in her breast 
even as a nut, through shame and disgrace, so that Finnabair 
Sleb^ (' Finnabair of the Mount *) is the name of the place 
where she fell, ^^ died and was buried. ^° 

• ' Twelve,' Stowe. 1— ^ Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. 

»-8 YBL. 43a, 20. 4-4 Stowe. ^--^ Stowe. 

«•••« Stowe. '•••' Stowe. s--* Stowe. 

» * Seven hundred,' YBL. 43a, 24 and Stowe. 
•— • YBL. 43a, 25. i»— 1« Stowe. 

The White-fight of Rochad 291 

4585. Then said the men of Erin, " White is this battle," said 
they, " for Rochad son of Fathemon, in that eight hundred 
exceeding brave warriors fell for his sake and on his account, 
and he himself goes ^safe and whole to his country and 
land ^ without blood-shedding or reddening on him." 
Hence this is the ' White-fight ' of Rochad. 

1-1 Stowe. 


W. 4590. ^ Then came to them ^ Iliach son of Cass son of 3acc son 
of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige. ^ jj^ ^a,s at that time 
an old man cared for by his son's son, namely by Loegaire 
Buadach ('the Victorious') in Rath Imbil in the north. ^ 
It was told him that the four grand provinces of Erin even 
then laid waste and invaded the lands of Ulster and of 
the Picts ^ and of Cualnge ^ from Monday at Summer's end 
till the beginning of Spring, * and were carrying off their 
women and their cows and their children, their flocks, their 
herds and their cattle, their oxen and their kine and their 
droves, their steeds and their horses.* He then conceived 
a plan ^ in his mind ^ and he made perfect his plan privily 
with his people. " What counsel were better for me to 
make than to go and attack the men of Erin * and to use 
my " strength on them ® and have ' my boast and ' victory 
over them, and thus avenge the honour of Ulster. And I 
care not though I should fall myself there thereafter." 
*LL. fo. 92b. * And this is the counsel he followed. His two 
withered, mangy, ^ sorrel ^ nags that were upon the strand 
hard by the fort were led to him. And to them was 
fastened his ancient, ^ worn-out ^ chariot. ^^ Thus he 
mounted his chariot, ^^ without either covers or cushions ; 

1-1 YBL. 43a, 29. 2... 2 stowe. 3. ..3 stowe. 

4—4 Stowe. ^—^ Stowe ••••« Stowe. 

• The MS. has ' his.' '•••' Stowe. »•••» YBL. 43a, 36. 

»•••» YBL. 43a, 36. i»-i» YBL. 43a, 35. 


Iliach's Clump-fight 293 

4601. ^a hurdle of wattles around it.^ His ^big,^ rough, pale- 
grey shield of iron he carried upon him, with its rim of 
hard silver around it. He wore his rough, grey-hilted, huge- 
smiting sword at his left side. He placed his two rickety- 
headed, nicked, ^ blunt, rusted ^ spears by his side in the 
chariot. His folk furnished his chariot around him with 
cobbles and boulders and huge clumps, * so that it was full 

up to its * (?) 

In such wise he fared forth to assail the men of Erin. 
And thus he came, ^ stark- naked, ^ ^ and the spittle from 
his gaping mouth trickling down through the chariot under 
him.® ^ When the men of Erin saw him thus, they began 
to mock and deride him.'' " Truly it would be well for 
us," said the men of Erin," " if this were the manner in 
which all the Ulstermen came to us ® on the plain." ^ 

Doche son of Maga met him and bade him welcome. 
"Welcome is thy coming, O Iliach," spake Doche son of 
Maga. ^ " Who bids me welcome ? " asked Iliach. " A 
comrade and friend of Loegaire Buadach am I, namely 
Doche macMagach." ^ " Truly spoken I esteem that 
welcome," answered Iliach; " but do thou ^° for the sake 
of that welcome ^^ come to me when now, alas, my deeds 
of arms will be over and my warlike vigour will have van- 
ished, ^^ when I will have spent my rage upon the hosts, ^^ 
so that thou be the one to cut off my head and none other 
of the men of Erin. However, my sword shall remain with 

i-i YBL. 43a, 35. 2... 2 stowe. 3-3 Stowe. 

*-4 YBL. 48a, 38. 5"» YBL. 43a, 40. 

6... 6 xhis is the sense of Zimmer's translation, which is only con- 
jectural, of this difficult passage (see Zeifschrift fiir Deutsches Alter- 
thum und Deutsche Litteratur, Bd. xxxii, 1888, S. 275). The idea 
is probably more clearly expressed in Stowe, H. i. 13 and YBL. 
43a, 41, and may be rendered, ' membrum virile ejus coram viros 
Hiberniae et testes pendentes per currum.' 

'•••' Stowe and, similarly, H. i. 13. " ' Said Medb,' Stowe. 

"•••" Stowe and, similarly, H. i. 13, Add. ••••• Stowe. 

10-..10 Stowe. ii-*» Stowe. 

294 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W, 4615. thee ^ for thine own friend, even ^ for Loegaire ^ Buadach \ "^ 
He assailed the men of Erin with his weapons till he had 
made an end of them. And when weapons failed he 
assailed the men of Erin with cobbles and boulders and 
huge clumps ^ of earth ^ till he had used them up. And 
when these weapons failed him he spent his rage on the 
man * that was nearest him * of the men of Erin, and bruised 
him grievously between his fore-arms ^ and his sides ^ and 
the palms of his hands, till he made a marrow-mass of 
him, of flesh and bones and sinews and skin. Hence in 
memory thereof, these two masses of marrow still live on 
side by side, the marrow-mass that Cuchulain made of the 
bones of the Ulstermen's cattle for the healing of Cethern 
son of Fintan," and the marrow-mass that Iliach made of the 
bones of the men of Erin. Wherefore this was one of the 
three innumerable things of the Tain, the number of them 
that fell at the hands of Iliach. So that this is the * Clump- 
fight ' of Iliach. It is for this reason it is called the 
' Clump-fight ' of Iliach, because with cobbles and boulders 
and massy clumps he made his fight. 

^ Thereafter ^ Doche son of Maga met him. " Is not 
this Ihach ? " asked Doche son of Maga. *' It is truly I," 
IHach gave answer ; " and come to me now and cut off my 
head and let my sword remain with thee for thy friend, 
for Loegaire ' Buadach (* the Victorious ')." ^ 

Doche came near him and gave him a blow with the 
sword so that he severed his head, ^ and he took with him 
the head and the spoils vauntingly to where were Ailill 
and Medb.^ Thus to this point, the ' Clump-fight ' of 

1—1 Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. ^...a stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. »— 5 Stowe. • See above, page 279. 

••••« Stowe. '.-' Stowe. »-8 Stowe. 



4638. This Amargin was the son of Cass who was son of Bacc 
who was son of Ross Ruad (* the Red ') who was son of 
Rudraige, ^ father of Conall Cernach ('the Triumphant').^ 
He came upon the warriors going over Taltiu westward, 
and he made them turn before him over Taltiu northwards. 
And he put his left " elbow under him in Taltiu. And his 
people furnished him v/ith rocks and boulders and great 
clumps 2 of earth, 2 and he began to pelt the men of Erin 
till the end of three days and three nights, ^ and he did 
great slaughter among them ^ * so that no man could show 
his face to him in Taltiu.* 

1--1 Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. 

" As a challenge or sign of hostility. 

3-» Stowe. *-4 YBL. 43b, 13-14. 





W. 4645. He was told that a single man was checking and stopping 
four of the five grand provinces of Erin ^ during the three 
months of winter ^ from Monday at Summer's end till the 
beginning of Spring. And he felt it unworthy of himself 
and he deemed it too long that his people were without 
him. And ^ it was then 2 he set out ^ to the host ^ to fight 
and contend with Cuchulain. And when he was come to 
the place where Cuchulain was, he saw Cuchulain there 
moaning, full of wounds and pierced through with holes, 
and he felt it would not be honourable nor fair to fight and 
contend with him after the combat with Ferdiad. * Because 
it would be said it was not that Cuchulain died of the sores 
*LL. fo.93a. * and wounds which he would give him so much as of the 
wounds which Ferdiad had inflicted on him in the conflict 
before.'* Be that as it might, Cuchulain offered to engage 
with him in battle and combat. 

Thereupon Curoi set forth for to seek the men of Erin 
and, when he was near at hand, he espied Amargin there 
and his left elbow under him to the west of Taltiu. Curoi 
reached the men of Erin from the north. His people 
equipped him with rocks and boulders and great clumps, 
and he began to hurl them right over against Amargin, so 
that Badb's battle-stones collided in the clouds and in the 
air high above them, and every rock of them was shivered 

1--1 YBL. 43b, 17. 

2.-2 YBL. 43b, 14-15. 3 -.3 YBL. 43b, 15. 

*•••* Reading with Stowe, which is to be preferred to LL. 


The Adventures of Curoi son of Dare 297 

4662. into an hundred stones. " By the truth of thy valour, O 
Curoi," cried Medb, " desist from thy throwing, for no real 
succour nor help comes to us therefrom, but ill is the suc- 
cour ^ and help ^ that thence come to us," "I pledge my 
word," cried Curoi, " I will not cease till the very day of 
doom and of life, till first Amargin cease ! " "I will cease," 
said Amargin ; " and do thou engage that thou wilt no 
more come to succour or give aid to the men of Erin." 
Curoi consented to that and went his way to return to his 
land and people. 

About this time ^ the hosts ^ went past Taltiu west- 
wards. "It is not this was enjoined upon me," quoth 
Amargin : " never again to cast at the hosts ^ but rather 
that I should part from them." ^ And he went to the west 
of them and he turned them before him north-eastwards 
past Taltiu. And he began to pelt them for a long while 
and time ^ so that he slaughtered more of them than can 
be numbered.* ^ This is one of the three incalculable 
things on the Tain, the number of those he slew. And his 
son Conall Cemach ('the Victorious') remained with him 
providing him with stones and spears.^ 

Then it was also that the men of Erin said it would be 
no disgrace for Amargin to leave the camp and quarters, 
and that the hosts would retire a day's march back to the 
north again, there to stop and stay, and for him to quit 
his feats of arms upon the hosts until such time as he would 
meet them on the day of the great battle when the four 
grand provinces of Erin would encounter at Garech and 
Ilgarech in the battle of the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge. 
Amargin accepted that offer, and the hosts proceeded a 
day's march back to the northwards again. Wherefore 
the ' Deer-stalking ' of Amargin in Taltiu ^ is the name of 
this tale.* 

1-1 Stowe. 2... 2 stowe. 3.. .3 stowe. 4-* Stowe. 
«^-« YBL. fo. 43b, 34^ 36. «•••« Stowe. 



1 Now while the deeds we have told here were being done, ^ 
W. 4685. Sualtaim ('Goodly fosterer') son of Becaltach ('of Small 
belongings ') son of Moraltach (* of Great belongings '), the 
same the father of Cuchulain macSualtaim, 2 of Sualtaim's 
Rath in the plain of IMurthemne,^ was told of the distress 
and ^ sore wounding ^ of his son contending in unequal 
combat on the Cualnge Cattle-spoil, even against Calatin 
Dana (* the Bold ') with his seven and twenty ^ sons, and 
against Glass son of Delga, his grandson, * and at the last 
against Ferdiad son of Daman.* 

^ It is then that Sualtaim said ^ : " Whatever it be, 

* this that I hear ® from afar," quoth Sualtaim, "it is the 
sky that bursts or the sea that ebbs or the earth that 
quakes, or is it the distress of my son overmatched in the 
strife on the Driving of the Kine of Cualnge ? " 

In that, indeed, Sualtaim spoke true. And he went to 
learn all after a while, v/ithout hastening on his way. And 
when Sualtaim was come to where ' his son ' Cuchulain 
was ^ and found him covered with wounds and bloody 
gashes and many stabs,^ Sualtaim began to moan and lament 

* for Cuchulain.^ 

1-1 YBL. 43b, 38-39. '-2 YBL. 43b, 39-40. »-3 Stowe, 

• • Twelve,' YBL. 43b, 41. 4---4 Stowe. 

«•••« Stowe and YBL. 43b, 42. «•••« Stowe. 

»•••' YBL. 43b, 46. 8-8 Stowe. ••••• Stowe. 


The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim 299 

V, 4695. Forsooth Cuchulain deemed it neither an honour nor 
glory that Sualtaim should bemoan and lament him, for 
Cuchulain knew that, wounded and injured though he was, 
Sualtaim would not be ^ the man ^ to avenge his wrong. 
For such was Sualtaim : He was no mean warrior and he 
was no mighty warrior, but only a good, worthy man was 
he. " Come, my father Sualtaim," said Cuchulain S 
2 ** cease thy sighing and mourning for me, and ^ do thou 
go to Emain ^ Macha ^ to the men of Ulster and tell them to 
come now to have a care for their droves, for no longer am 
I able to protect them in the gaps and passes of the land 
of Conalle Murthemni. All alone am I against four of the 
five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's 
end till the beginning of Spring, every day slaying a man 
on a ford and a hundred warriors every night. Fair fight 
is not granted me nor single combat, and no * one comes to *ll. fo. 93b. 
aid me nor to succour. * And such is the measure of my 
wounds and my sores that I cannot bear my garments or 
my clothing to touch my skin, so that * spancel-hoops hold 
my cloak over me. Dry tufts of grass are stuffed in my 
wounds. ^ There is not the space of a needle's point from 
my crown to my sole without wound or sore, and ^ there 
is not a single hair ® on my body ^ from my crown to my 
sole whereon the point of a needle could stand, without a 
drop of deep-red blood on the top of each hair, save the 
left hand alone which is holding my shield, and even there 
thrice fifty bloody wounds are upon it. ' And let them 
straightway give battle to the warriors,*^ and unless they 
avenge this anon, they will never avenge it till the very 
day of doom and of Hfe ! " 

Sualtaim set out on Liath (' the Roan ') of Macha as his 
only horse, with warning to the men of Ulster. And when 

1—1 Stowe. 2... a stowe. ^-^ Stowe. 

*•••* Stowe. 6-6 Stowe. ••••» Stowe. '•••' YBL. 43b, 49. 

300 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4716. he was come alongside of Emain, he shouted these words 
there : " Men are slain, women stolen, cattle lifted, ye 
men of Ulster ! " cried Sualtaim. 

He had not ^ the answer ^ that served him from the 
Ulstermen, and forasmuch as he had it not he went on 
further to the rampart of Emain. And he cried out the 
Same words there : " Men are slain, women stolen, cattle 
hfted, ye men of Ulster ! " cried Sualtaim. 

And 2 a second time 2 he had not the response that served 
him from the men of Ulster. Thus stood it among the 
Ulstermen : It was geis for the Ulstermen to speak before 
their king, geis for the king to speak before his ^ three ^ 
druids. Thereafter Sualtaim drove on to the ' Flag-stone of 
the hostages ' in Emain Macha. He shouted the same 
words there : " Men are slain, women stolen, cows carried 
off ! " *' But who has slain them, and who has stolen them, 
and who has carried them off ? " asked Cathba the druid. 
*' AiHll and Medb have, * with the cunning of Fergus mac 
Roig,* overwhelmed you. ^ Your people have been har- 
assed as far as Dun Sobairche," ^ said Sualtaim. " Your 
wives and your sons and your children, your steeds and 
your stock of horses, your herds and your flocks and your 
droves of cattle have been carried away. Cuchulain all 
alone is checking and staying the hosts of the four great 
provinces of Erin at the gaps and passes of the land of 
Conalle Murthemni. Fair fight is refused him, nor is he 
granted single combat, nor comes any one to succour or 
aid him. ^ Cuchulain has not suffered them to enter the 
plain of Murthemne or into the land of Ross. Three winter 
months is he there. ^ The youth is wounded, his limbs 
are out of joint. Spancel-hoops hold his cloak over him. 
There is not a hair from his crown to his sole whereon the 
point of a needle could stand, without a drop of deep-red 

1--1 Stowe. 

2-2 Stowe. 3-3 YBL. 44a, 9. *•••* YBL. 44a, 13. 

5.-.5 YBL. 44a, 13. «•••« YBL. 44a, 15. 

The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim 301 

J, 4737. blood on the top of each hair, except his left hand alone 
which is holding his shield, and even there thrice fifty 
bloody wounds are upon it. And unless ye avenge this 
betimes, ye will never avenge it till the end of time and 
of life." 

* " Fitter is death and doom and destruction for the *LL, fo. 94a. 
man that so incites the king ! " quoth Cathba the druid. 
" In good sooth, it is true ! " ^ said the Ulstermen ^ all 

2 Thereupon 2 Sualtaim went his way ^ from them, ^ in- 
dignant and angry because from the men of Ulster he had 
not had the answer that served him. Then reared Liath 
(' the Roan ') of Macha under Sualtaim and dashed on to the 
ramparts of Emain. Thereat * Sualtaim fell under his own 
shield, so that * his own shield turned on Sualtaim and the 
^ scalloped ^ edge of the shield severed Sualtaim 's head, 
® though others say he was asleep on the stone, and that 
he fell thence onto his shield on awaking.^ ^ Hence this 
is the ' Tragical Death of Sualtaim.' ^ 

The horse himself turned back again to Emain, and the 
shield on the horse and the head on the shield. And Sual- 
taim's hekd uttered the same words : " Men are slain, 
women stolen, cattle lifted, ye men of Ulster ! " spake the 
head of Sualtaim. 

" Some deal too great is that cry," quoth Conchobar ; 
" for yet is the sky above us, the earth underneath and 
the sea round about us. And unless the heavens shall 
fall with their showers of stars on the man-like " face of 
the world, or unless the ground burst open in quakes ^ be- 
neath our feet,^ or unless the furrowed, blue-bordered 
ocean break o'er the tufted brow of the earth, will I restore 


1-1 Stowe. *•••« Stowe. '•••» Stowe. ^--^ Stowe. 

»-5 YBL. 44a, 28. «•"• YBL. 44a, 32-33. '•••' Stowe. 

" Reading with LL. 5027 and 5975, which gives better meaning 
than the expression * fort-face,' of LL. ••••• Stowe. 

302 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4756. to her byre and her stall, to her abode and her dwelling- 
place, each and every cow and woman of them with victory 
of battle and contest and combat ! " 

Thereupon a runner of his body-guard was summoned 
to Conchobar, Findchad Ferbenduma (' he of the copper 
Horn ') to wit, son of Fraech Lethan (' the Broad '), and Con- 
chobar bade him go assemble and muster the men of Ulster- 
And in like manner, in the drunkenness of sleep and of his 
' Pains,' Conchobar enumerated to him their quick and 
their dead, and he uttered these words : — 

" Arise, O Findchad ! 
1 Thee I send forth : ^ 
A neghgence not to be wished (?) ; 
Proclaim it to the chiefs of Ulster! 

2 The Order of the men of Ulster. ^ 

2 Go thou forward to Derg,^ to Deda at his bay, to Lemain, 

to FoUach, to Illann ^ son of Fergus ^ at Gabar, to Dornaill 

Feic at Imchlar, to Derg Imdirg, to Fedilmid ^ son of liar 

Cetach of Cualnge ^ at EUonn, to Reochad ^ son of Fathe- 

mon ^ at Rigdonn, to Lug, to Lugaid, to Cathba at his bay, 

to Carfre at EUne, to Laeg at his causeway, to Gemen in 

^LL. fo. 94b. his valley, to SenoU Uathach at Diabul Ard, * to Cethern 

son of Fintan at Carrloig, "^ to Cethern at Eillne,'' to Tarothor, 

to Mulach at his fort, to the royal poet Amargin, to Uathach 

Bodba, to the Morrigan at Dun Sobairche, to Fit, to Roth, 

to Fiachna at his mound, to Dam drend, to Andiaraid, to 

Mane Macbriathrach (' the Eloquent '), to Dam Derg (' the 

Red'), to Mod, to Mothus, to larmothus at Corp Chath, to 

Gabarlaig in Line, to Eocho Semnech in Semne, ^ to Eochaid 

Laithrech at Latharne,^ to Celt char son of Uthecar in Leth- 

glas, to Errge Echbel (* Horsemouth ') at Bri Errgi (' Errge's 

Hill '), to Uma son of Remarfessach (* Thickbeard ') at Fedain 

^—1 Reading with YBL. 44a, 41. 

2 •••2 Stowe and YBL. 44a, 41. 

3-3 Stowe and H. i. 13. ^...4 YBL. 44a, 46. 

6-6 Stowe. «•••« YBL. 44a, 45. '•••' YBL. 44b, 7-8. 

«...« YBL. 44b, 28-29, Stowe and H. i. 13. 

The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim 303 

4819. in Cualnge, to Munremur (' Thickneck ') son of Gerrcend 
(' Shorthead') at Moduirn, to Senlabair at Canann Gall (' of 
the Foreigners'), to Fallomain, to Lugaid, ^ king of the 
Fir Bolg,^ to Lugaid of Line, to Buadgalach (' the Victorious 
Hero ') , to Abach, 2 to Fergna at Barrene,^ to Ane, to Aniach, 
2 to Abra,^ to Loegaire Milbel (' Honey-mouth '), at his fire (?), 
to the three sons of Trosgal at Bacc Draigin (' ThomhoUow '), 
to Drend, to Drenda, to Drendus, to Cimb, to Cimbil, to 
Cimbin at Fan na Coba (' the Slope of . . . ), to Fachtna 
son of Sencha at his rath, to Sencha, to Senchainte, to 
Bricriu, to Briccime son of Bricriu, to Brecc, to Buan, to 
Barach, to Oengus of the Fir Bolg, to Oengus son of Lete, 
* to Fergus son of Lete,* to . . . /" (?), to Bruachar, 
to Slange, to Conall Cernach (' the Victorious ') son of 
Amargin at Midluachar, to Cuchulain son of Sualtaim at 
Murthemne, to Menn son of Salcholga at Rena (' the Water- 
ways '), to the three sons of Fiachna, Ross, Dare and Imchad 
at Cualnge, to Connud macMorna at the Callann, to Condra 
son of Amargin at his rath, to Amargin at Ess Ruaid, 
to Laeg at Leire, to Oengus Ferbenduma (' him of the 
copper Horn '), to Ogma Grianainech (* Sun-faced ') at Brecc, 
to Eo macForne, to Tollcend, to Sudd at Mag Eol in Mag 
Dea, to Conla Saeb at Uarba, to Loegaire ^ Buadach (' the 
Triumphant ' Y at ImmaH, to Amargin larngiunnach (* the 
Darkhaired ') at Taltiu, * to Furbaide Ferbenn (' the man *LL. fo. 94c 
with Horns on his helmet ') son of Conchobar at Sil in Mag 
Inis (' the Island-plain '), to Cuscraid Menn (' the Stammerer ') 
of Macha son of Conchobar at Macha, to Fingin at Finga- 
bair, to Blae * the Hospitaller of a score,' to Blae ' the 
Hospitaller of six men,' to Eogan son of Durthacht at 
Fernmag, to Ord at Mag Sered, to Oblan, to Obail at Culenn, 
to Curethar, to Liana at Ethbenna, to Femel, to Finnchad 

1-1 H. I. 13 and YBL. 44b, 36. 

2... 2 YBL. 44b, 40-41. 3...3 YBL. 44b, 44. 

*•••* Stowe and YBL. 44b, 14. " The readings are comipt. 

5... 5 YBL. 44b, 44. 

304 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 4892. of Sliab Betha, to Talgoba 1 at Bernas ('the Gap'), 1 to- 
Menn son of the Fir Cualann at Mag Dula, to IroU at 
Blarine, ^ to Tobraide son of Ailcoth,^ to lalla Ilgremma (' of 
many Captures '), to Ross son of Ulchrothach (' the Many- 
shaped ') at Mag Dobla, to Aihll Finn (' the Fair '), to Fethen 
Bee (' the Little'), to Fethan Mor (' the Big'), to Fergus 
son of Finnchoem (' the Fair-comely ') at Burach, toOlchar, 
to Ebadchar, to Uathchar, to Etatchar, to Oengus son of 
Oenlam Gabe (' the one-handed Smith '), to Ruadri at Mag 
Tail, 2 to Mane son of Crom (* the Bent'), to Nindech son 
of Cronn, to ... (?), to Mai macRochraidi, ^ to 
Beothach (' the Lively '), to Briathrach (' the Wordy ') at his 
rath, to Narithla at Lothor, to the two sons of Feic, Muridach 
and Cotreb, to Fintan son of Niamglonnach (' of brilliant 
Exploits ') at Dun daBenn (' the two-gabled Dun '), to Fera- 
dach Finn Fechtnach (' the Fair and Upright ') at Nemed 
*LL. fo. 95a. (' the Shrine ') of Sliab Fuait, * to Amargin son of Ecetsalach 
(' the grimy Smith ') at the Buas, to Bunne son of Munremar, 
to Fidach son of Dorare, *to Muirne Menn ('the Stam- 

It was nowise a heavy task for Finnchad to gather this 
assembly and muster which Conchobar had enjoined upon 
him. For all there were ^ of Ulstermen ^ to the east of 
Emain and to the west of Emain and to the north of Emain 
set out at once for the field of Emain in the service of their 
king, and at the word of their lord, and to await the recovery 
of Conchobar. Such as were from the south of Emain 
^ waited not for Conchobar, but ^ set out directly on the 
trail of the host and on the hoof-prints of the Tain. 

The first stage the men of Ulster marched under Con- 
chobar was ' from Emain "^ to the green in Iraird Cuillinn 

^•••i Reading with YBL. 45a, 14 ; LL. is corrupt. 

2-2 YBL. 45a, 3. 3...3 YBL. 45a, 7. 

4.. .4 YBL. 45a, 14. 

5-6 Stowe. «•••« Stowe. '•••' Stowe and YBL. 45a. 24. 

The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim 305 

that night. " Why now delay we, ye men ? " Conchobar 
asked. " We await thy sons," they answered ; " Fiacha 
and Fiachna who have gone ^ with a division ^ from us 

2 to Tara ^ to fetch Ere son of thy daughter FedUmid 
Nocruthach ('Nine-shaped'), son also of Carbre Niafer 

3 king of Tara, 3 to the end that he should come with the 
number of his muster and his troops, his levy and his forces 
to our host at this time. * Until these two divisions come 
to us, no further advance will we make from this place." * 
*' By my word," exclaimed Conchobar ; "I will delay 
here no longer for them, lest the men of Erin hear of my 
rising from the weakness and ' Pains ' wherein I was. For 
the men of Erin know not even if I am still aUve ! " 

Thereupon Conchobar and Celtchar proceeded with thirty 
hundred spear-bristling chariot-fighters to Ath Irmidi 
('the Ford of Spear-points '). And there met them there 
eight-score huge men of the body-guard of Ailill and Medb, 
with eight-score women ^ of the Ulstermen's women ^ as 
their spoils. Thus was their portion of the plunder of 
Ulster : A woman-captive in the hand of each man of them. 
Conchobar and Celtchar struck off their eight-score heads 
and released their eight-score captive- women. Ath Irmidi 
(' the Ford of Spear-points ') was the name of the place till 
that time ; Ath Fene is its name ever since. It is for this 
it is called Ath Fene, because the warriors of the Fene from 
the east and the warriors of the Fene from the west en- 
countered one another in battle and contest man for man 
on the brink of the ford. 

* Touching the four grand provinces of Erin, they en- 
camped at Slemain Mide (' Slane of Meath ') that night, and ® 
Conchobar and Celtchar returned that night to the green in 
Iraird Cuillinn hard by the men of Ulster. Thereupon 
Celtchar aroused the men of Ulster. 

1-1 YBL. 45a, 26. 2.. .2 YBL. 45a. 27. 

3—3 Stowe. *•••* YBL. 45a, 29. 

^•••5 Stowe. ••••» Stowe and H. i. 13. 




W. 4954. It was then that Celtchar 2 in his sleep ^ uttered these 
words 3 to Conchobar ^ in the midst of the men of Ulster 
in Iraird Cuillinn that night : ** — 

" Thirty hundred chariot-men ; 
An hundred horse-companions stout ; 
An hundred with an hundred druids ! 
To lead us will not fail 
The hero of the land, 
Conchobar with hosts around him ! 
Let the battle line be formed ! 
Gather now, ye warriors ! 
Battle shall be fought 
At Garech and Ilgarech 
On aftermorrow's mom ! " 

^ Or it was Cuscraid Menn (' the Stammerer ') of Macha, 
Conchobar's son, who sang this lay on the night before the 
battle . . ./ after the lay ' Arise ye Kings of Macha ' 
which Loegaire Buadach (' the Victorious ') sang.* 

On that same night Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's 
son, spake these words to the men of Erin at Slemain Mide 
that night : — 

i-'-i This title is supplied by the present writer. 
2-2 Stowe and H. i. 13. 3... 3 yBL. 45a, 38. 

• I can make nothing of the first four lines of the following poem, 
and they are consequently omitted from the translation. The 
translation of the remainder of the rose is largely conjectural. 

«•••* YBL. 45a, 45-45b, 2. 

* There is a small gap in the MS. 


The Agitation of Celtchar 307 

AQjo " A wonder of a morning, 

A wondrous ^ time ! ^ 
When hosts will be confused, 
^ Kings * turned back in flight ! 
3 Necks will be broken. 
The sand* made red,^ 
When forth breaks the battle. 
The seven chieftains before. 
Of Ulster's host round Conchobar ! 
Their women will they defend, 
For their herds will they fight 
At Garech and Ilgarech, 
On the morning after the morrow ! 
•* Heroes will be slaughtered then. 
Hounds cut to pieces. 
Steeds overwhelmed ! " * 

On that same night, Dubthach Doel (' the Scorpion ') * of 
Ulster ^ saw the dream wherein were the hosts at Garech 
and Ilgarech. Then it was ^ he uttered these words ^ in 
his sleep ^ among the men of Erin at Slemain Mide that 
night : — 

" Great be the morn. 
The morn of Meath ! 
Great be the truce 
The ' truce ' of Culenn ! 

" Great be the fight. 
The fight of 8 Clartha ! * 
Great, too, the steeds, 
The steeds of Assal ! 

" Great be the plague. 
The plague of Tuath-Bressi ! " 
Great be the storm, 
Ulster's battle-storm round Conchobar ! 

" Their women will they defend. 
For their herds will they fight 
At Garech and Ilgarech, 
On the morning after the morrow ! " 

1-1 YBL. 45b, 7. 

2---2 Reading with YBL. 45b, 8; LL. has 'hosts.' 

3---3 YBL. 45b, 8-9. " Or, ' the sun.' 

4-4 YBL. 45b, 11-14. 5-5 YBL. 45b, 4-5. 

••••• YBL. 45b, 5-6. '•••' YBL. 45b, 19. 

*•••' Reading with Stowe. 

* See note, page 198. * Probably Connacht. 

3o8 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5003. Then ^ when the hosts were assembled at Garech and 
Ilgarech,^ Dubthach was awakened from his sleep, so that 
Nemain brought confusion on the host and they fell trem- 
bling in their arms under the points of their spears and 
weapons, so that an hundred warriors of them fell dead 
*LL. fo. 95b. *in the midst of their camp and quarters at the fearfulness 
of the shout they raised on high. Be that as it would, that 
night was not the calmest for the men of Erin that they 
passed before or since, because of the forebodings and 
predictions and because of the spectres and visions that 
were revealed to them. 

1-1 YBL. 45b, 4-5. 



2 While these things were being done, the Connachtmen 
by the counsel of Aihll, Medb, and Fergus, resolved to 
send messengers from thence to spy out the men of Ulster, 
to make certain if they had taken possession of the plain. ^ 
Said Ailill : " Truly have I succeeded," said he, " in laying 
waste Ulster and the land of the Picts ^ and Cualnge ^ from 
Monday at Summer's end till Spring's beginning. We have 
taken their women and their sons and their children, their 
steeds and their troops of horses, their herds and their flocks 
and their droves. We have laid level their hills after them, 
so that they have become lowlands and are all one height. 
For this cause, wiU I await them no longer here, but let 
them offer me battle on Mag Ai, if so it please them. But, 
say here what we will, some one shall go forth * from us * 
to watch the great, wide plain of Meath, to know if the 
men of Ulster come hither. And, should the men of Ulster 
come hither, I will in no wise be the first to retreat ^ till 
battle be given them,^ for it was never the wont of a good 
king to retreat." 

" Who should fitly go thither ? " asked aU. " Who 
but macRoth our chief runner yonder," ^ answered another 
group of them.^ 

1-1 YBL. 45b, 22. 2. ..2 YBL. 45b, 23-26. 

»— 3 Stowe. *•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. 

*•••' Stowe and H. i. 13. «•••« Stowe and H. i. 13. 


310 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5023. MacRoth went his way to survey the great wide-spreading 
plain of Meath. Not long was macRoth there when he 
heard something : A rush and a crash and a clatter and a 
clash. Not slight the thing he judged it to be, but as 
though it was the firmament itself that fell on the man-hke 
face of the world, or as though it was the furrowed, 
blue-bordered ocean that broke o'er the tufted brow of the 
earth, or as though the ground had gone asunder in quakes, 
or as though the forest fell, each of the trees in the crotches 
and forks and branches of the other. But why give further 
accounts ! The wood's wild beasts were hunted out on the 
plain, so that beneath them the grassy forelocks of the plain 
of Meath were not to be seen. 

MacRoth hastened to tell this tale at the place where 
were Ailill and Medb and Fergus and the nobles of the men 
of Erin. MacRoth related the whole matter to them. 

" What was that there, O Fergus ? " asked Ailill ; ^ " to 
what likenest thou it ? " ^ " Not hard ^ for me to say 
what it resembled. 2 It was the rush and tramp and clatter 
that he heard," said Fergus, " the din and thunder, the 
tumult and turmoil ^ of the Ulstermen.^ It was the men 
of Ulster * arising from their * Pains,' * who have come 
into the woods, the throng of champions and battle-heroes 
cutting down with th^ir swords the woods in the way of their 
chariots. This it was that hath put the wild animals to 
flight on the plain, so that the grassy forelocks of the field 
of Meath are hidden beneath them ! " 

Another time macRoth surveyed the plain and he saw 
something : A heavy, grey mist that filled ^ the glens and 
the slopes,^ ^ the upper void and veil,^ the space between 
the heavens and earth. It seemed to him that ^ the hills ^ 
were islands in lakes that he saw rising up out of the sloping 

^•••1 YBL. 46a, 2. 2"2 YBL. 46a, 1-2. 

3-» Stowe and H. i. 13. 4-4 YBL. 46a, 3-4. 

^•••5 YBL. 45b, 40-41. «•••« Stowe. '•••' YBL. 45b, 41. 

The Array of the Host 311 

5044. valleys of mist. It seemed to him they were wide-yawning 
caverns that he saw there leading into that mist. It 
seemed to him it was all-white, flaxy sheets of linen, or sifted 
snow a-falling that he saw there through a rift in the mist. 
It seemed to him it was a flight of many, varied, wonder- 
ful, numerous birds ^ that he " saw in the same mist, ^ or 
the constant sparkling of shining stars * on a bright, clear *LL. fo. 96a. 
night of hoar-frost, or sparks of red-flaming fire. He heard 
something : A rush and a din and a hurthng sound, a noise 
and a thunder, a tumult and a turmoil, 2 and a great wind 
that all but took the hair from his ^ head and threw him " on 
his ^ back, and yet the wind of the day was not great. ^ He 
hastened on to impart these tidings at the place where were 
AiliU and Medb and Fergus and the nobles of the men of 
Erin. He reported the matter to them. 

" But what was that, O Fergus ? " asked AililL " Not 
hard to say," Fergus made answer. " This was the great, 
grey mist that he saw which filled the space between the 
heavens and earth, namely, the streaming breath both 
of horses and men, the smoke of the earth and the dust of 
the roads as it rose over them with the driving of the wind, 
so that it made a heavy, deep-grey misty vapour thereof 
in the clouds and the air. 

*' These were the islands over lakes that he saw there, 
and the tops of hills and of heights over the sloping 
valleys of mist, even the heads of the champions and battle- 
heroes over the chariots and the chariots withal. These 
were the wide-yawning caverns that he saw there leading 
into that mist, even the mouths and the nostrils of the 
horses and champions exhaling and inhaling the sun and 
the wind with the speed of the host. These were the all- 
white, flax-like cloths that he saw there or the streaming 

« MS. : ' I.' ^--^ Stowe and H. i. 13. 

2. ..2 YBL. 45b, 46-46a, i. * MS. ' my.' 

« MS. ' me.' 

312 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5066. snow a-f ailing, to wit the foam and the froth that the bridles 
of the reins flung from the bits of strong, stout steeds with 
the stress, ^ with the swiftness and strength and speed ^ of 
the host. 

" These were the flights of many, various, wonderful, 
numerous birds that he saw there, even the dust of the ground 
and the top of the earth 2 and the sods ^ which the horses 
flung from their feet and their hoofs and arose ^ over the 
heads of the host ^ with the driving of the wind. 

" This was the rush and the crash and the hurtling sound, 
the din and the thunder, the clatter and clash that he heard 
there, to wit the shield-shock of shields and the jangle of 
javelins and the hard-smiting of swords and the ring of hel- 
mets, the clangour of breast-plates and the rattle of arms and 
the fury of feats, the straining of ropes and the whirr of 
wheels and the trampling of horses' hoofs and the creaking 
of chariots, and the deep voices of heroes and battle-warriors 
coming hither towards us. 

" This was the constant sparkling of shining stars on a 
bright, clear night that he saw there and the sparks of red- 
flaming fire, even the bloodthirsty, terrible eyes of the 
champions and battle-warriors from under beautiful, well- 
shaped, finely-adorned battle-helmets ; eyes full of the fury 
and rage they brought with them, against the which neither 
before nor since has equal combat nor overwhelming force 
of battle prevailed, and against which it will never prevail 
till the very day of doom and of Hfe ! " 

" We make not much of that," quoth Medb ; ** ^ " we will 
await them.* ^ For ^ there are goodly warriors and goodly 
fighting-men with us to cope with them." ® " Thou shalt 
have need of them," answered Fergus.^ " Truly, I 
count not on that, O Medb. For I give my word, thou 

i—i H. I. 13. 2...2 stowe. 3. ..3 stowe. 

* ' Ailill,' YBL. 46a, 23. 4-* YBL. 46a, 22. 

^•••5 Stowe. «•••« YBL. 46a, 23. 

The Array of the Host 313 

/. 5087. shall find no host in ^ all ^ Erin, nor in Alba, ^ nor in the 
western part of the world from Greece and Scythia west- 
wards to the Orkney Islands, the Pillars of Hercules, Bregon's 
Tower and the islands of Cadiz ^ to cope with the men of 
Ulster when once their anger comes on them ! " 

Then did the four grand provinces of Erin pitch camp 
and make lodgment at Clartha for that night. They sent 
forth folk to keep watch and guard against Ulster, to the 
end that the Ulstermen might not come upon them without 
warning, without notice. 

Then it was that Conchobar and Celtchar with thirty 
hundred bristling chariot-fighters set forth, till they halted 
at Slemain Mide {' Slane of Meath ') * in the rear of the *LL. fo. 96b. 
host of Erin. But, though ' halted ' we have said, ^ a very 
brief halt made they there. ^ Not straightway pitched they 
camp, but proceeded for a favourable sign to the quarters 
of Ailill and Medb, so they might be the first of all to redden 
their hands * on the men of Erin.* 

^ Then did macRoth go again to view the hosting of the 
men of Ulster, so that he reached their encampment at 
Slane of Meath. ^ It was not long macRoth had been there 
when he saw something : An incomparable, immense troop 
of horsemen in Slane of Meath coming straight from the 
north-east. He hastened forward to where were AiliU 
and Medb and Fergus and the chiefs of the men of Erin. 
Ailill asked tidings of him on his arrival : " Say, mac 
Roth,*' queried Ailill ; " sawest thou aught of the men of 
Ulster on the trail of the host this day ? " " Truly I know 
not," answered macRoth; "but I saw an incomparable, 
immense troop of horsemen in Slane of Meath coming 
straight from the north-east." " But how many numbered 
the horse-troop ? " asked Ailill. " Not fewer, meseemed, 

1-1 YBL. 46a, 24. 2.. .2 YBL. 45a, 25-28. 

3-3 Stowe and H. i. 13. 

4-* Stowe and H. i. 13. ^...s yBL. 46a, 28-31. 

3^4 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5107- than thirty hundred fully armed chariot-fighters were they, 
even ten hundred and twenty hundred fully armed chariot- 
fighters/* macRoth made answer. 

"So, O Fergus," quoth Ailill, 1 " those are the warriors 
of Ulster with Conchobar ! ^ How thinkest thou to terrify 
us till now with the smoke and dust and the breath of a 
mighty host, while all the battle-force thou hast is that we 
see yonder ! " 

" A little too soon belittlest thou them," Fergus retorted ; 
" for mayhap the bands are more numerous than is said they 

" Let us take good, swift counsel on the matter," said 
Medb ; "for yon huge, most fierce, most furious man will 
attack us we ween, Conchobar, to wit, son of Fachtna 
Fathach (' the Giant ') son of Ross Ruad (* the Red ') son of 
Rudraige, himself High King of Ulster and son of the High 
King of Erin. Let there be a hollow array of the men of 
Erin before Conchobar and a force of thirty hundred ready 
to close in from behind, and the men shall be taken and 
in no wise wounded ; for, no more than is a caitiff's lot is 
this whereto they are come ! " Wherefore this is the third 
most derisive word that was spoken on the Cattle -lifting 
of Cualnge, even to take Conchobar 2 and his people 2 
prisoners without wounding, and to inflict a caitiff's lot on 
the ten hundred and twenty hundred who accompanied the 
kings of Ulster. 

And Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar heard that, 
and he knew that unless he took vengeance at once upon 
Medb for her great boast, he would not avenge it till the very 
day of doom and of life. 

It was then that Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar 
arose with his troop of thirty hundred to inflict the revenge 
of battle and prowess upon Ailill and Medb. Ailill arose 

1--1 Stowe and H. i. 13. *•••- Stowe. 

The Array of the Host 315 

with his thirty hundred to meet him. Medb arose with 
her thirty hundred. The Mane arose with their thirty 
hundred. The sons of Maga arose with their thirty hundred. 
The Leinstermen and the Munstermen and the people of 
Temair arose and made interposition between them, so that 
on both sides each warrior sat down near to the other and 
near by his arms. 

Meanwhile a hollow array of men was made by Medb to 
face Conchobar and a ^ warlike ^ band of thirty hundred 
ready to close in from behind. Conchobar proceeded to 
attack the circle of men, ^ to force an opening. ^ And he 
was far from seeking any particular breach, but he worked 
a small gap, broad enough for a man-at-arms, right in front 
over against him in the circle of combatants, and effected a 
breach of an hundred on his right side, and a breach of an 
hundred on his left, and he turned in on them, and mingled 
3 among them ^ on their ground, and there fell of them eight 
hundred fully brave warriors at his hands. And thereafter 
he left them without blood or bleeding from himself and 
took his station in Slane of Meath at the head of the men 
of Ulster. 

" Come, ye men of Erin ! " cried Ailill. " Let some one 
go hence to scan the wide-stretching plain of Meath, to 
know in what guise the men of Ulster come to the height 
in Slane of Meath, to bring us an account of their arms 
and their gear * and their trappings, their kings and their 
royal leaders,^ their champions and battle- warriors and gap- 
breakers of hundreds and their yeomen, ^ to which to 
listen will shorten the time for us." ^ * " Who should *LL. fo. 97a. 
go thither ? " asked all. '* Who but macRoth the chief 
runner," Ailill '^ made answer. 

MacRoth went his way till he took his station in Slane 

^•••^ Stowe and H. i. 13. ^---^ Reading with Stowe. 

»•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. *•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. 

»...5 Following Stowe. « ' Fergus,' H. i. 13 and Stowe. 

3i6 * Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5151. of Meath, awaiting the men of Ulster. The Ulstermen were 
busied in marching to that hill from gloaming of early morn 
till sunset hour in the evening. In such manner the earth 
was never left naked under them during all that time, every 
division of them under its king, and every band under its 
leader, and every king and every leader and every lord 
with the number of his force and his muster, his gathering 
and his levy apart. Howbeit, by sunset hour in the evening 
all the men of Ulster had taken position on that height in 
Slane of Meath. 

MacRoth came forward with the account of their first 
company to the place where Ailill and Medb and Fergus 
were and the nobles of the men of Erin. Ailill and Medb 
asked tidings of him when he arrived. " Come, macRoth,*' 
quoth Ailill, " tell us in what manner of array do the Ulster- 
men advance to the hill of Slane in Meath ? " " Truly, I 
know not," answered macRoth, " except ^ this alone : ^ 
There came a fiery, powerful, most well-favoured company 
upon the hill of Slane in Meath," said macRoth. " It 
seemed, on scanning and spying, that ° thrice thirty hundred ° 
warriors were in it. ^ Anon ^ they all doffed their garments 
and threw up a turfy mound for their leader to sit on. A 
youth, slender, long, exceeding great of stature, fair to be- 
hold, proud of mien, in the van of the troop. Fairest of 
the princes of the world was he in the midst of his warriors, 
as well in fearsomeness and in awe, in courage and com- 
mand ; fair-yellow hair, curled, dehcately arranged in 
ridges and bushy had he ^ reaching to the nape of his neck ; ^ 
a'."comely, clear-rosy countenance he had, * narrow below 
and broad above ; * a deep-blue-grey, angry eye, devour- 

^•••1 Stowe and H. i. 13. 

«•••* * Thirty hundred,' Stowe, H. i. 13, and YBL. 46a, 47. 

2-2 Stowe and H. i. 13. 

3"-3 Stowe and H. i. 13, and, similarly, YBL. 46a, 42. 

*-4 YBL. 46a, 47. 

The Array of the Host 317 

.5175. ing and fear-inspiring, in his head ; a two-forked beard, 
yellow, fairly curled, on his chin ; a purple mantle with 
fringes and five-folded wrapped around him ; a ^ con- 
spicuous, ^ salmon-shaped brooch of ^ red ^ gold in the 
mantle over his breast ; a shining-white, hooded shirt 
under red interweaving of red gold he wore next his white 
skin ; a bright-white shield with figures of beasts of red 
gold thereon ; a gold-hilted, hammered sword in one of 
his hands ; a broad and grey-green lance-head ^ on an ashen 
shaft 3 in the other ; ^ the pillar of a king's house on his 
back.* That warrior took his station on the top of the 
mound, so that each one came up to him and his company 
took their places around him. 

" There came also another company to the same height 
in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. " Second of 
the two divisions of thirty hundred it wels, ^ and next to 
the other in numbers and attendance, in accoutrements 
and fearfulness and horror.^ A ^ great,® "^ hero-like, "^ well- 
favoured warrior was there likewise at the head of that 
company ; fair-yellow hair he wore ; a bright, curly beard 
about his chin ; a green mantle wrapped around him ; a 
bright-silvern pin in the mantle at his breast ; a brown- 
red, soldier's tunic under red interweaving of red gold 
trussed up against his fair skin down to his knees ; a candle 
of a king's house ** in his hand, with windings of silver and 
bands of gold ; wonderful the feats and games performed 
with the spear in the hand of the youth ; the windings of 
silver ran round it by the side of the bands of gold, now 
from the butt to the socket, while at other times it was the 
bands of goldx that circled by the side of the windings of 
silver from socket to spear-end ; a smiting shield with 

1-1 YBL. 46a, 44. 2...2 YBL. 46a. 44. 3. ..3 YBL. 46b, 3. 

*•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. That is, ' a great spear.* 

»•••'' YBL. 46b, 8-9. «•••« Stowe and H. i. 13. 

7. ..7 YBL. 46b, 9. • That is, 'a flaming-red spear.' 

31 8 , Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5195. plaited edge he bore ; a sword with hilt-pieces of ivory, 
and ornamented with thread of gold on his left side. This 
warrior took his station on the left of the leader ^ of the first 
company ^ who had come to the mound, and his followers 
got them seated around him. But, though we have said 
they sat, they did not verily seat themselves at once, but 
2 they sat thus, ^ with their knees on the ground and the 
rims of their shields against their chins, so long it seemed 
to them till they should be let at us. But, one thing yet : 
*LL. fo. 97b. Meseemed that * the great, fierce youth who led the troop 
stammered grievously ^ in his speech. ^ 

" Still another battalion there came to the same mound 
in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. *' Second to its 
fellow in number and followers and apparel. A handsome, 
broad-headed warrior at the head of that troop ; dark- 
yellow hair in tresses he wore ; an eager, dark-blue 
eye rolling restlessly in his head ; a bright, curled beard, 
forked and tapering, at his chin ; a dark-grey cloak with 
fringes, folded around him ; a leaf-shaped brooch of silvered 
bronze in the mantle over his breast ; a white-hooded shirt 
* reaching to his knees ^ ^ was girded ^ next to his skin ; 
a bright shield with raised devices of beasts thereon he 
bore ; a sword with white silver hilt in battle-scabbard at 
his waist ; the pillar of a king's palace he bore on his back. 
This warrior took his station on the hill of turf facing the 
warrior who first came to the hill, and his company took 
their places around him. But sweet as the tone of lutes 
in masters' hands when long sustained, so seemed to me 
the melodious sound of the voice and the speech of the 
youth conversing with the warrior who first came to the 
hill and offering him every counsel." 

" But who might that be ? " asked Aihll of Fergus. 

i"-i Stowe and H. i. 13. 

= •••2 YBL. 46b, 19. 

»..-3 YBL. 46b, 21. 

4-..* YBL. 46b, 30. 

"— « Stowe and H. i. 13. 

The Array of the Host 319 

5218. " Truly, we know him well," Fergus made answer. " This, 
to wit, is the first hero for whom they threw up the mound 
of turf on the height of the hill and whom all approached, 
namely, Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach son of Ross 
Ruad son of Rudraige, High King of Ulster, and son of 
the High King of Erin. ^ It is he that sat on the mound 
of sods.i This, to wit, is the stammering, great warrior," 
2 Fergus continued, 2 "who took station on ^ his father ^ 
Conchobar 's left, namely, Cuscraid Menn (* the Stammerer ') 
of Macha, Conchobar 's son, with the sons of the king of 
Ulster * and the sons of the princes of the men of Erin * 
close by him. This is the spear he saw in his hand, even 
the ' Torch of Cuscraid,' with its windings of silver and 
bands of gold. It is the wont of that spear that neither 
before nor after do the silver windings run round it by the 
side of the bands of gold but only on the eve of a triumph. 
Belike, it is almost before a triumph they course round it 

*' The well-favoured, broad-headed warrior who seated 
himself on the hill in the presence of the youth who first 
came on the mound, namely is Sencha son of Ailill son of 
Maelcho * the Eloquent ' of Ulster, he that is wont to appease 
the hosts of the men of Erin. But, yet a word more I say : 
It is not the counsel of cowardice nor of fear that he gives 
his lord this day on the day of strife, but counsel to act 
with valour and courage and wisdom and cunning. But, 
again one word further I say," added Fergus : " It is a 
goodly people for performing great deeds that has risen there 
early this day around Conchobar ! " " We make not much 
of them," quoth Medb; "we have goodly warriors and 
stout youths to deal with them." " I count not that for 
much," answered Fergus again ; " but I say this word : 
Thou wilt not find in Erin nor in Alba a host to be a match 

1-1 YBL. 46b, 36. 2...2 stowe. '-^ YBL. 46b, 40. 

*'••* Stowe and H. i. 13. 

320 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5242. for the men of Ulster when once their anger comes upon 

" Yet another company there came to the same mound in 
Slane of Meath," said macRoth. ^ " Not fewer than a 
battahon of thirty hundred was in it.^ A fair, tall, great 
♦LL. fo. 98a. warrior * in the van of that battalion, and he of fiery spirit, 
with noble countenance. Brown, dark-coloured hair he 
wore, smooth and thin on his forehead ; a dull-grey cloak 
girt around him ; a silver pin in the cloak over his breast ; 
a bright, sleeved tunic next to his skin ; a curved shield 
with sharp, plaited rim he bore ; a five-pronged spear in his 
hand ; a straightsword with ornaments of walrus-tooth 
in its place." " But, who might that be ? " asked Ailill of 
Fergus. " In very sooth, we know him," Fergus made 
answer. " The putting of hands on strife is he ; a battle- 
warrior for combat and destruction on foes is the one who 
is come there, ^ even ^ Eogan son of Durthacht, ^ king of 
the stout-handed ^ Fernmag in the north, is the one yonder." 
" Another battalion there came thither to the same 
mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. " It 
is surely no false word that boldly they took the hill. Deep 
the terror, great the fear they brought with them. * Ter- 
rible the clangour of arms they made as they advanced.* 
Their raiment all thrown back behind them. A great- 
headed, warlike warrior in the forefront of the company, 
and he eager for blood, dreadful to look upon ; spare, grizzly 
hair had he ; huge, yellow eyes in his head ; a yellow, close- 
napped (?) cloak around him ; a pin of yellow gold in the 
cloak over his breast ; a yellow tunic with lace next his 
skin ; ^ a great, smiting sword under his waist ; ^ in his 
hand a nailed, broad-plated, long-shafted spear with a drop 

^•••^ Stowe, H. I. 13, and, similarly, YBL. 47a, i. 
2---2 Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 47a, 12. 

3---3 Reading with Stowe and H. i. 13 ; LL. seems to be corrupt 

*•••* YBL. 47a, 18-19. '•••' Stowe and H. i. 13. 

The Array of the Host 321 

L 5262. of blood on its edge." '* But, who might that be ? " asked 
Ailill of Fergus. " In truth then, we know him, that 
warrior," Fergus gave answer. *' Neither battle nor battle- 
field nor combat nor contest shuns he, the one who is come 
thither. Loegaire Buadach (* the Victorious ') son of Connad 
Buide (* the Yellow ') son of Iliach, from Immail in the north, 
is the one yonder." 

"Another company there came there too to the same 
mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. " A thick- 
necked, burly warrior at the head of that troop ; black, 
bushy hair he had ; a scarred, crimsoned face he had ; a 
deep-blue-grey, blazing eye in his head ; a spear set with 
eyes of glass, casting shadows over him ; a black shield 
with a hard rim of silvered bronze upon him ; a dun- 
coloured cloak of curly wool about him ; a brooch of pale 
gold in the cloak over his breast ; a three-striped tunic of 
silk ^ with red embroidery ^ next to his skin ; a sword with 
ivory hilt and with ornamentation of thread of gold over 
his dress on the outside." " But, who might that man be ?" 
asked Aihll of Fergus. " We know him full well," Fergus 
made answer. "He is the putting of hand on strife ; a 
wave of the high sea that drowneth ^ the small streams ; ^ 
he is the man of three shouts ; the sea over walls ; ^ the 
venomous destruction of enemies, ^ the man who comes 
thither. Muremur (* Thick-neck ') son of Gerrcend (* Short- 
head') from Moduirn in the north is the one yonder." 

" Still another company there came to the same mound in 
Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. * " Not fewer 
than thirty hundred, the battle line of the troops.* A 
^ broad-headed,^ stout warrior, pleasantly found of limb, 
in the front of that troop ; he is dried and sallow ; he is 
wild and bull-like ; a dun, round eye, proud in his head ; 

1-1 YBL. 47a, 40. 2...2 YBL. 47a, 43. 3...3 YBL. 47a, 44. 

*•••* YBL. 47b. 12-13. 

»•••* Reading with Stowe and H. i. 13. 

322 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5283. yellow, very curly is his hair ; a red, round shield with hard- 
silver rim about it he bore ; a ^ trebly riveted,^ broad- 
plated, long-shafted spear in his hand ; a streaked-grey 
cloak around him ; a salmon-shaped brooch of copper in 
the cloak over his breast ; a hooded kirtle girded around 
him reaching down to his calves ; a straightsword with 
ornaments of walrus-tooth on his left thigh." " But who 
LL. fo. 98b. might he be ? " * asked Ailill of Fergus. " I know him 
indeed," Fergus made answer. " He is the prop of battle ; 
2 he is the wild heat of anger ; he is the daring of every 
battle ; ^ he is the triumph of every combat ; he is the 
tool that pierces, is the man who comes thither. Connud 
macMorna, from the Callann in the north, is the man 

" There came still another company to the same mound 
in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. ^ " A company 
most fair to look upon, most notable both in numbers and 
in attendance and apparel.^ It is indeed no lying word, it 
is with might and storm they gained the hill, so that * with 
the clash of arms they made at the approach of that com- 
pany* they startled the hosts that had arrived there before 
them. A man, comely and noble, in advance of that band ; 
most well-favoured to see of the men of the world, whether 
in shape or form or frame ; ^ whether in hair or eyes or 
fearfulness ; whether in voice or brightness or knowledge 
or adornment ; whether in rank or wisdom or kindred ; ^ 
whether in arms or apparel ; whether in size or worth or 
beauty ; whether in figure or valour or conduct." ^ " Who 
might that man be, O Fergus ? " asked AiUU.^ " Then it 
is surely no lying word," Fergus made answer : "A fitting 
saying is this, ' No fool 'mongst the naked ' « is he who 

1-1 YBL. 47b, 20. 2. ..2 YBL. 47b, 21-22. 

3... 3 YBL. 47a, 48-49. *•••* YBL. 47a, 50-51. 

»--6 YBL. 47b, 1-3. «•••« Stowe and H. i. 13. 

* A proverbial saying, the exact force of which we cannot deter- 

The Array of the Host 323 

5299. comes thither. He is the foe of all others ; he is a power 
irresistible ; the storm- wave that drowneth, the glitter of 
ice is that well-favoured man. Fedilmid ^ son of ^ ^ liar 
Cetach of Cualnge,^ from Ellonn in the north, is he yonder, 
^with trophies from other lands after dealing destruction 
to his enemies." ^ 

" Still another battalion came thither to the same hill 
in Slane of Meath," macRoth proceeded. ^ '* It is the 
array of an army for greatness.* Not often is a warrior 
seen more handsome than the warrior that is in the front 
rank of that company. Bushy, red-yellow hair he wore ; 
^ his countenance comely, ruddy, well-formed ; ^ his face 
* slender below,^ broad above ; a deep-blue-grey, beaming 
eye, and it flashing and laughing in his head ; a well-set, 
shapely man, tall, slender below and broad above ; red, 
thin lips he had ; teeth shining and pearl-like ; ' a clear, 
ringing voice ; ' a white-skinned body ; ^ most beautiful 
of the forms of men ; ® ® a purple cloak wrapped around 
him ; ® a brooch of gold in the mantle over his breast ; a 
1° hooded ^° tunic of royal silk with a red hem of red 
gold he wore next to his white skin ; a bright, ^^ curved ^^ 
shield with^- wonderful, ^2 13 many-coloured ^^ devious figures 
of beasts in red gold thereon ^^ and with hollows of silver he 
bore at his left side ; ^*a gold-hilted, inlaid sword ^^ hanging 
from his neck ^^ at his left side ; a long, grey-edged spear 

mine. The reading of H. i. 13 may be translated, ' No fool on 
a board (or shield ?),' that is, a clown or tumbler (?). 

^•••1 Stowe and H. i. 13. 2... 2 Reading with Stowe. 

3. ..3 YBL. 47b, 9-10. 4. ..4 YBL. 47b, 26. 

5... 6 YBL. 47b, 29-30 ; Stowe and H. i. 13. 

^•••^ Translating from YBL, 47b, 30, Stowe and H. i. 13; LL. 
has, ' very beautiful.' 

'•••' YBL. 47b, 32. »•••« YBL. 47b, 34, Stowe and H. i. 13. 

»•••• Reading with Stowe and H. i. 13. 

lo-io Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 47b, 40-41. 

11-.. 11 Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 47b, 36. 

12. "la stowe and H. i. 13. "-i^ YBL. 47b, 37. 

^«...i4 Stowe, H. 1. 13 and YBL. 47b, 37. ^^-^^ YBL. 47b, 40, 


Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 5313. along with a cutting bye-spear of attack, with thongs for 
throwing, with fastenings of silvered bronze, in his 

" But who might that man be ? " asked Ailill of Fergus. 
" We know him full well," Fergus made answer. "He is 
half of a battle ; he is the dividing * of combat ; he is the 
wild rage of a watchhound, the man who is come thither ; 
Rochad son of Fatheman, from Rigdonn in the north, is he 
yonder. ^ Your son-in-law is he ^ ; ^he wedded your 
daughter, namely Finnabair,^ ^ without dower, and he 
brought neither marriage-gift nor bride-price to her." ^ 

** Another battalion there came to the same hill in Slane 
of Meath," continued macRoth. '* A stalwart, thick- 
thighed, ^ gross-calved * warrior at the head of that company ; 
little but every limb of him as stout as a man. Verily it 
is no lying word, he is a man down to the ground," said he. 
" Brown, bushy hair upon his head ; a round-faced, ruddy 
countenance ^ covered with scars ^ he had ; a flashing, 
proud eye in his head ; a splendid, dexterous man was there, 
in this wise : Accompanied by black-haired, black-eyed 
youths ; with a red, flaming banner ; ^ with terror and 
fearsomeness ; with wonderful appearance, both of arms 
and apparel and raiment and countenance and splendour ; 
with converse of heroes ; with champions' deeds ; ^ with 
wilful rashness, so that they seek to rout overwhelming 
numbers outside of equal combat, ^ with their wrath upon 
foes, with raids into hostile lands, ^ with the violence of 
assault upon them, without having aught assistance from 

« That is, ' a single-handed warrior,' translating from YBL. /[jb^ 
43 and Stowe. ^--^ YBL. 47b. 45. 

Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 47b, 46. 
Stowe and H. i. 13. 
YBL. 47b, 48, Stowe and H. i. 13. 
•6 YBL. 48a, 2, Stowe and H. i. 13. 

Stowe, and, similarly, YBL. 48a, 4-6, H. i. 13. 
YBL. 48a, 8-9, and, similarly, Stowe and H. i. 13, 

The Array of the Host 325 

5327. Conchobar. ^ It is no lying word, stiffly they made their 
march, that company to Slane of Meath." ^ 

" But, who might he be ? " asked Ailill of Fergus. " Aye 
then we know him," Fergus made answer. " A thirst for 
valour and prowess ; a thirst for madness and fury ; ^ a 
man of strength and of courage, of pride and of greatness of 
heart ^ is he that came thither. The welding of hosts and 
of arms ; the point of battle and of slaughter of the men 
of the north of Erin, mine own real foster-brother himself, 
Fergus son of Lete, ^ the king ^ from Line in the north, is 
the man yonder ! " 

" Still another * great, fierce * company came to the 
same hill in Slane of Meath," macRoth continued. ^ " A 
battle-line with strange garments upon them,^ steadfast, 
without equal. A ^ comely,^ handsome, ^ matchless,^ 
untiring warrior in the van of this company ; ^ the flower 
of every form, whether as regards hair, or eye, or white- 
ness ; whether of size, or followers or fitness.^ Next to his 
skin a blue, narrow-bordered cloth, with strong, woven 
and twisted hoops of silvered bronze, with becoming, sharp- 
fashioned buttons of red gold on its slashes and breast- 
borders ; a ^ green * mantle, pieced together with the 
choicest of all colours, ^^ folded about him ; ^^ ^^ a brooch of 
pale gold in the cloak over his breast ;^^ five circles of gold,* *LL. fo. 99a. 
that is, his shield, he bore on him ; a tough, obdurate, 
straight-bladed sword for a hero's handling hung high on his 
left side. A straight, fluted spear, flaming red ^^ and veno- 
mous ^- in his hand." " But, who might that be ? " asked 

^•••1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and, similarly, YBL. 48a, lo-ii. 
2-2 Stowe and H. i. 13. '-^ YBL. 48a, 14. 

*•••* YBL. 48a, 16. ^-^ YBL. 48a, 17. 

«•••« Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 48a, 18. 
'•••' Stowe and H. i. 13. 
8"8 Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 48a, 19-20. 
••••» YBL. 48a, 21. ^»-i» YBL. 48a, 21. 

"•••*! Stowe, H. I. 13 and, similarly, YBL. 48a, 22. 
12... 15^ Stowe and H. i. 13. 

326 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5342. Ailill of Fergus. " Truly, we know him well," Fergus made 
answer. ^ " Fiery is the manner of the warlike champion 
who has so come thither. ^ The choice flower of royal poets 
is he. He is the rush on the rath ; he is the way to the 
goal ; fierce is his valour, the man that came thither ; 
Amargin son of the smith Ecetsalach {' the Grimy '), the 
noble poet from the Buas in the north, is he." 

'* There came yet another company there to the same 
hill in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. " A fair, 
yellow-haired hero in the front rank of that band. Fair 
was the man, both in hair and eye and beard and eyebrows 
and apparel ; a rimmed shield he bore ; a gold-hilted, 
overlaid sword on his left side ; in his hand, a five-pointed 
spear that reflected its glare over the entire host, ^ and a 
hollow lance in his hand. Hero-like was his coming 1 " * 
'* But who was that man ? " asked Ailill of Fergus. " In 
sooth, we know him well," Fergus made answer. " Cherished, 
in truth, is that warrior by the people, he that to us is come 
thither ; cherished, the stout-blow-dealing beast ; cherished, 
the bear of great deeds against foes, ^ with the violence of 
his attack.^ Feradach Finn Fectnach (* the Fair and 
Righteous ') from Nemed {' the Grove ') in Sliab Fuait in 
the north, is the one that is come there." 

* *' Another company there came to the mound in Slane 
of Meath," continued macRoth. " Three bold, high- 
spirited youths of noble countenance, ^ fiery and noble,^ 
in the front rank of that company. Three cloaks of the 
one colour * they wore folded ® upon them ; ^ three close 
shorn, blae-yellow heads ; three gold brooches over their 
arms ; three sleeved tunics with embroidery of red gold, 
girded around them ; ' three shields wholly alike they bore ; 
s three gold-hilted swords on their shoulders ; ^ three iive- 

1-^ YBL. 48a, 24-25. 2... 2 YBL. 48b, 1-2. 

^•••3 Reading with Stowe and H. i. 13. 

*•••* Stowe, and, partly, YBL. 48b, 33-45. ^--^ YBL. 48b, 34. 
6. ..6 YBL. 48b, 36. '-■'•7 YBL. 48b, 35-38. 8-8 YBL. 48b. 39. 

The Array of the Host 327 

r. 5360. pointed, ^ broad and grey-green ^ spears in their ^ right ^ 
hands." " Who were those men there ? " Aihll asked. 
*' I know," Fergus answered ; " the three princes of Roth, 
the three champions of Colph, the three of Midluachair, 
great in achievements, three seasoned warriors of the east 
of Erin, to wit, the three sons of Fiachna in quest of their 
bull are there, even Ros and Dare and Imchad, for theirs 
was the possession of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. Even 
had they come alone, they would have offered you battle 
in defence of their bull and their drove, even though before 
them the enemy should not be routed." * 

" Yet another company there came thither to the same 
hill in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. " Two * fair,* 
tender, young warriors at the head of that company, ^ and 
both wholly alike. Brown, curly hair on the head of one 
of them ; fair, yellow hair on that of the other ; ^ two green 
cloaks wrapped about them ; two bright-silver brooches in 
the cloaks over their breasts ; two tunics of smooth yellow 
silk next to their skin ; bright-hilted swords on their belts ; 
^ two bright shields with devious figures of beasts in silver ; ^ 
two five-pronged spears with windings of pure bright silver 
in their hands. Moreover, their years were nigh the same. 
■^ Together they lifted their feet and set them down again, 
for it was not their way for either of them to Hft up his feet 
past the other."' 

" But, who might they be ? " asked AiUll of Fergus. 
" Well do we knOw them," Fergus made answer. " Two 
single, strong-necked champions are they; two united 
flames ; two united torches ; two champions ; two heroes ; 
two ridge-poles of hosts " ; two dragons ; two thunderbolts ; 
two destroyers (?) ; two boars ; two bold ones ; two mad 
ones ; the two loved ones of Ulster around their king ; 

1-1 YBL. 48b, 40. 2.. .2 YBL. 48b, 40. 

3. ..3 YBL. 48b, 20. 5—* Stowe and H. i. 13. 

«•••« YBL. 48b. 22. '•••' YBL. 48b, 23-25. 

« That is, ' two chiefs of hospitaUty.' 


328 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

^ two breach-makers of hundreds ; two spencers ; the two 
darlings of the north of Erin, namely ^ Fiacha and Fiachna 
have come thither, two sons of Conchobar son of Fachtna 
son of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige." 

'* There came also another company to that same 
mound,'' said macRoth. " Tis the engulphing of the 
sea for size; red-flaming fire ^ f or splendour; ^ a legion 
for number ; a rock for strength ; annihilation for battle ; 
thunder for might. A ^ rough-visaged,^ wrathful, terrible, 
ill-favoured one at the head of that band, and he was 
big-nosed, large-eared, apple-eyed, * red-limbed,* ^ great - 
beUied, thick-lipped.^ Coarse, grizzly hair he wore ; a 
streaked-grey cloak about him ; a skewer of iron in 
the cloak over his breast, so that it reached from one of 
his shoulders to the other ; a rough, three-striped tunic 
next to his skin ; a sword of seven charges of remelted 
iron he bore on his rump ; a brown hillock he bore, 
namely his shield ; a great, grey spear with thirty nails 
driven through its socket he had in his hand. But, what 
need to tell further ? ® All the host arose to meet him, 
and ® the lines and battalions were thrown into disorder at 
the sight of that warrior, as he came surrounded by his 
company to the hill in Slane of Meath ^ and the stream of 
battle-hosts with him.*' ^ " But who might that man be ? '* 
asked Ailill of Fergus. " Ah, but we know him well,'' 
Fergus made answer. " He is the half of the battle ; he 
is the head of strife ^ of Ulster ; ^ he is the head ^ of com- 
bat * in valour ; ^^ he is the storm-wave that drowneth ; ^^ 
he is the sea overbounds, the man that is come thither ; the 
mighty Celtchar son of Uthechar, from Lethglass in the 
north, is^the man there ! " 

^•••1 Stowe and H. i. 13. 2. ..2 yBL. 48a, 30. 

3-3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and YBL. 48a, 33. 

4-* H. I. 13 and YBL. 48a, 36. »•••» YBL. 48a. 35. 

«•••« YBL. 48a, 42. '•••7 H. I. 13 and Stowe. 

••••8 Stowe. «•••' YBL. 48a, 44. i»-i» YBL. 48a, 45-46. 

The Array of the Host 329 

^ 5397- " There came yet another company thither to the same 
hill in Slane of Meath," said macRoth ; " one that is firm 
and furious ; one that is ugly and fearful. A great- 
bellied, big-mouthed champion, ^ the size of whose mouth 
is the mouth of a horse, ^ in the van of that troop ; with 
but one clear eye, and ^ half-brained, ^ long-handed. Brown, 
very curly hair he wore ; a black, flowing mantle around 
him ; a wheel-shaped brooch of tin in the mantle over his 
breast ; a cunningly wrought tunic next to his skin ; a 
great long sword under his waist ; a well-tempered lance 
in his right hand ; * a grey buckler he bore on him, that is, *LL. fo. 99b. 
his shield." 

" Pray, who might that man be ? " asked Ailill of Fergus. 
" Indeed, but we know him," Fergus made answer ; " the 
wild, red-handed, ^ rending ^ lion ; the fierce, fearful bear 
that overcometh valour. * He is the high doer of deeds, 
warlike, and fierce,* Errge Echbel ('Horse-mouth'), from 
Bri Errgi (' Errge's Mound ') in the north, is the one 

" Yet another company there came to the same hill in 
Slane of Meath," said macRoth. " A large, noble, ^ fiery ^ 
man at the head of that company ; foxy-red hair he had ; 
huge, crimson-red eyes in his head ; bulging as far as the 
bend of a warrior's finger is either of the very large crimson, 
kingly eyes he had ; a many-coloured cloak about him ; 
* a wheel-shaped brooch of silver therein ; ® a grey shield 
he bore "^ on his left arm ; "^ a slender, blue lance above 
him ; ^ a bright, hooded shirt tucked around him that 
reached down to his knees ; ^ ^ a sword with silver hilt at 
his hip ; a spear remarkable for keenness in his revengeful 
right hand ; ^ a blood-smeared, becrimsoned company 

1-1 YBL. 48b, 9-10. 2" -2 YBL. has, ' broad-headed.' 
^•••3 Stowe and H. i. 13. *•••* YBL. 48b, 16. 

^•••5 YBL. 48b, 47. « ••« YBL. 48b, 49-50. 

'•••' YBL. 48b. 51. 8...« YBL. 48b, 52-49a, i. 

»•••» YBL, 48b, 51-52. 

33^ * Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5414. around him ; himself covered with wounds and blood in 
their midst." 

^ " Now who might he be ? " asked Aihll of Fergus. " Well 
do we know him/' Fergus made answer. " He is the bold, 
the ruthless, ^ the swift-moving eagle ; ^ the eager lance ; 
the goring beast ; 2 the torrent 2 of the Colbtha ; ^ the 
border-gate of the north of Erin ; ^ the triumphant hero 
from Baile ; he is the shaft(?) ; ° he is the bellowing hero 
from Bemas (' the Gap ') ; the furious bull ; Menu son of 
Salcholga, from Rena (' the Waterways ') of the Boyne * in 
the north ; he hath come to take vengeance on ye for his 
bloody wounds and his sores which ye inflicted on him 
afore." * 

" Yet another company came thither to the same mound 
in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. ^ " High spirited 
and worthy of one another.^ A long- jawed, sallow-faced 
Warrior, ^ huge, broad, and tall,^ at the head of that com- 
pany ; black hair on his head ; long limbs are his legs ; a 
cloak of red curly wool about him ; a brooch of white silver 
in the cloak over his breast ; an ^ all-white,^ linen shirt 
next to his skin ; a gory-red shield with a boss * of gold ® 
he bore ; a sword with hilt of ^ white ^ silver on his left 
side ; a sharp-cornered, gold-socketed spear he held over 
him ; ^^ a broad, grey, interwoven spear-head, fairly set 
on an ashen shaft, in his hand." ^^ " But, who might he 
be?" Ailill asked of Fergus. "Truly, we know him," 
Fergus made answer. ^^ " The man of three stout blows 
has come ; ^^ the man of three highways is he ; the man 
of three roads, the man of three paths, the man of three 

^•••^ Translating from St owe and H. i. 13. 

2—2 Stowe and H. i. 13. 3. ..3 yBL. 49a, 7. 

*• A word has fallen out in the MS. 

^•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. ^...s YBL. 49a, 11-12. 

6... 6 YBL. 49a, 12-13. '•••' Stowe and H. i. 13. 

«-3 Stowe and H. i. 13. »•••» YBL. 49a, 17. 

10... 10 YBL. 49a, 18-20. 11-11 YBL. 49a, 20-21. 

The Array of the Host 331 

r. 5431. ways; the man of three victories, the man of three tri- 
umphs ; 1 the man of three shouts ; the man that breaks 
battles on foes in another province ; ^ Fergna son of Find- 
choem, king of Burach, ^ from Coronn,^ 3 royal hospit- 
aller 3 of Ulster in the north, has come thither." 

" Even another company came there to the same mound 
in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. *" Vaster than 
a division of three thousand was its appearance."* A large, 
^white-breasted,^ well-favoured man in the van of that 
company. Like to Ailill yonder, with his pointed weapons, 
the restrainer, both in features and noble bearing and 
fairness, both in arms and apparel, in valour and bravery 
and fame and deeds. A blue shield « adapted for striking,^ 
with boss of gold was ^upon him.' A gold-hilted sword, 
® the pillar of a palace,^ ^ along his shoulder^ he bore on his 
left side ; a five-pronged spear with gold, in his hand ; i^^an 
^_ exceeding fine cloak folded about him ; a brooch of gold 
™ in the cloak over his breast ; a tunic with red ornaments 
about him ; ^® a golden crown on his head." 

" But, who might that be ? " asked Ailill of Fergus. 
" Ah, but we know him well," Fergus made answer. 
^^" Truly, the sea over rivers is the one that is come thither ; 
the wild rage of fire ; not to be borne is his wrath against 
foes ; ^1 the root of all manhood ; the assault of overwhelm- 
ing power ; the annihilation of men is he that is come 
thither. Furbaide Ferbenn son of Conchobar, from Sil in 
Mag Inis in the north, is there." 

^ " Yet another company came to the mound in Slane 

1-1 YBL. 49a, 23-24. 2... 2 YBL. 49a, 25. 

3--3 Stowe and H. i. 13. 4—* YBL. 49a, 28. 

5.. .5 YBL. 49a, 29. «•••« YBL. 49a, 34. 

'•••' YBL. 49a, 35, Stowe and H. i. 13. ^--^ YBL. 49a, 35. 

»...9 YBL. 49a, 35. ^°-^" YBL. 49a, 31-34- 

11. ..11 YBL. 49a, 36-38. 

12... 12 The following passage extending to page 337 is not found in 
LL. owing to the loss of a leaf. It is translated here from Stowe 
with the help of H. i. 13 and Add. 18,748. 

332 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5444. of Meath/' continued macRoth. " A sharp, proud folk ; 
a stately, royal company, with their apparel of many colours, 
as well white and blue and black and purple, so that to a 
king could be Hkened each spirited, chosen man in the noble, 
most wonderful troop. A feast for the eyes of a host, to 
gaze on their comeliness and their garb, as if it was going 
forth to some great surpassing assembly was each single 
man of that company. A trine of noble, distinguished 
men were in the front rank of that company. The first 
man of them with a dark-grey mantle fringed with gold 
thread about him ; a brooch of gold in the mantle over 
his breast ; a tunic of rare silk next to his skin ; sandals 
of lamb's skin he wore. Not many men in the world are 
better-favoured than is he. A light-yellow head of hair 
he has ; a bright-faced sword with ivory hilt and with coils 
of gold thread, in his right hand. He flings on high the 
tooth-hilted sword, so that it falls on the head of the middle 
man but it simply grazes it. He catches it up in the air 
again, so that it falls on the head of the other man, and the 
first man catches it in his hand, and it divided not a ringlet 
nor the skin of the head of either of them, and these two 
men did not perceive it. Two brown, rich-hued, bright- 
faced youths ; reddish-grey mantles around them ; white- 
silver brooches in their mantles over their breasts ; a bright- 
hilted sword under their waists ; purple sandals they wore ; 
as sweet as strings of lutes when long sustained in players' 
hands was the voice and song of one of the men, so that 
enough of dehght it was to the host to listen to the sound 
of his voice. Worthy of a king or of a prince was each 
man in that company as regards apparel and appearance ; 
thou wouldst think, at the sight of them, they were all kings. 
Neither spears nor swords do they bear, but their servants 
bear them." 

" An over-proud body is that," quoth Ailill ; " and who 
may they be, O Fergus ? " he asked. " I know full well," 

The Array of the Host 333 

5466 replied Fergus ; "the poets of Ulster are they, with that 
Fercerdne the fair, much-gifted, whom thou sawest, even 
the learned master of Ulster, Fercerdne. Tis before him 
that the lakes and rivers sink when he upbraids, and they 
swell up high when he applauds. The two others thou 
sawest are Athirne the chief poet, whom none can deny, 
and Ailill Miltenga (' Honey- tongue ') son of Carba ; and 
he is called Ailill ' Honey-tongue ' for that as sweet as 
honey are the words of wisdom that fall from him." 

" There came yet another company to the mound in 
Slane of Meath," said macRoth. " A most terrible, dread- 
ful sight to behold them. Blue and pied and green, purple, 
grey and white and black mantles ; a kingly, white-grey, 
broad-eyed hero in the van of that company ; wavy, grizzled 
hair upon him ; a blue-purple cloak about him ; a leaf- 
shaped brooch with ornamentation of gold in the cloak 
over his breast ; a shield, stoutly braced with buckles of 
red copper ; yellow sandals he wore ; a large, strange- 
fashioned sword along his shoulder. Two curly-haired, 
white-faced youths close by him, wearing green cloaks and 
purple sandals and blue tunics, and with brown shields 
fitted with hooks, in their hands ; white-hilted swords with 
silvered bronze ornaments they bore ; a broad, somewhat 
light countenance had one of them. One of these cunning 
men raises his glance to heaven and scans the clouds of the 
sky and bears their answer to the marvellous troop that 
is with him. They all lift their eyes on high and watch 
the clouds and work their spells against the elements, so 
that the elements fall to warring with each other, till they 
discharge rain-clouds of fire downwards on the camp and 
entrenchments of the men of Erin." 

" Who might that be, O Fergus ? " asked AiliU. " I 
know him," replied Fergus ; " the foundation of know- 
ledge ; the master of the elements ; the heaven-soaring 
one; he that blindeth the eyes; that depriveth his foe 

334 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5488. of his strength through incantations of druids, namely 
Cathba the friendly druid, with the druids of Ulster about 
him. And to this end he makes augury when judging the 
elements, in order to ascertain therefrom how the great 
battle on Garech and Ilgarech will end. The two youths 
that are about him, they are his own two sons, to wit Imrinn 
son of Cathba and Genonn Gruadsolus (* Bright-cheek') 
son of Cathba, he that has the somewhat light countenance. 
Howbeit it will be hard for the men of Erin to withstand 
the spells of the druids." 

" Yet another company there came to the mound in 
Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. " A numberless, 
bright-faced band ; unwonted garments they wore ; a 
little bag at the waist of each man of them. A white-haired, 
bull-faced man in the front of that company ; an eager, 
dragon-like eye in his head ; a black, flowing robe with 
edges of purple around him ; a many coloured, leaf-shaped 
brooch with gems, in the robe over his breast ; a ribbed 
tunic of thread of gold around him ; a short sword, keen 
and hard, with plates of gold, in his hand ; they all came 
to show him their stabs and their sores, their wounds and 
their ills, and he told each one his sickness, and he gave 
each a cure, and what at last happened to each was even 
the ill he foretold him." " He is the power of leechcraft ; he 
is the heahng of wounds ; he is the thwarting of death ; 
he is the absence of every weakness, is that man," said 
Fergus, " namely Fingin the prophet mediciner, the phy- 
sician of Conchobar, with the leeches of Ulster around him. 
It is he that knoweth the sickness of a man by the smoke 
of the house wherein he lies, or by hearing his groans. 
Their medicine bags are the sacks which thou sawest with 

" Another company came to the mound in Slane of 
Meath," continued macRoth. " A powerful, heavy, turbu- 
lent company ; they caused uproar in their deeds of arms 

The Array of the Host 335 

for the accomplishment of brilliant feats ; " they tore up 
the sad-sodded earth with the strength of their bitter rage, 
for the mighty princes of the proud province of Conchobar 
would not allow them to proceed to the great camp till all 
should be arrived. Two youths, swarthy and huge, in the 
front of that company ; soft, playful eyes in their heads ; 
about them, dark-grey tunics with silver pins set with 
stones ; great, horn-topped swords with sheaths they bore ; 
strong, stout shields they bore ; hollow lances with rows 
of rivets, in their hands ; glossy tunics next to their skin." 
" We know well that company," quoth Fergus ; " the house- 
hold of Conchobar and his vassals are those ; their two 
leaders, Glasne and Menu, two sons of Uthechar." 

" There came yet another band to the mound in Slane 
of Meath," continued macRoth ; "to wit, a band of a 
numerous body of henchmen. A black, hasty, swarthy, . . . , 
man in the front rank of that band ; seven chains around 
his neck ; seven men at the end of each chain ; these seven 
groups of men he drags along, so that their faces strike 
against the ground, and they revile him until he desists. 
Another terrible man is there, and the ponderous stone 
which powerful men could not raise, he sets on his palm 
and flings on high to the height a lark flies on a day of fine 
weather ; a club of iron at his belt." " I know those men," 
quoth Fergus : " Triscoth the strong man of Conchobar 's 
house ; it is he that flings the stone on high. Ercenn son 
of the three stewards, he it is in the chains." 

" There came ^ another ^ large, stately company to the 
mound in Slane of Meath," macRoth went on. " Three, 
very curly-headed, white-faced youths in the van of that 
troop ; three curly-red kirtles with brooches of silvered 
bronze was the apparel they wore about them ; three 

" There is a gap here in both Stowe and H. i. 13, and conse- 
quently the translation is uncertain. 
^ -i H. I. 13. 

336 ' Tain Bo Ctialnge 

sparkling tunics of silk with golden seams tucked up about 
them ; three studded shields with images of beasts for 
emblems in silvered bronze upon them and with bosses of 
red gold; three very keen swords with guards adorned 
with gold thread along their shoulders ; broad-bladed 
javelin-heads on ashen shafts in their hands." " Who 
might that be there, O Fergus ? " asked Ailill. " That I 
know," answered Fergus : " the three venoms of serpents ; 
three cutting ones ; three edges ; three watchful ones ; 
three points of combat ; three pillars of the borders ; three 
powerful companies of Ulster ; three wardens of Erin ; 
three triumph-singers of a mighty host are there," said 
Fergus, " the three sons of Conchobar, namely Glas and 
Mane and Conaing." 

" Yet another company there came to the mound in 
Slane of Meath," said macRoth. " Stately, in beautiful 
colours, gleaming-bright they came to the mound. Not 
fewer than an army-division, as a glance might judge them. 
A bold, fair-cheeked youth in the van of that troop ; Hght- 
yellow hair has he ; though a bag of red-shelled nuts were 
spilled on his crown, not a nut of them would fall to the 
ground because of the twisted, curly locks of his head. 
Bluish-grey as harebell is one of his eyes ; as black as 
beetle's back is the other ; the one brow black, the other 
white ; a forked, light-yellow beard has he ; a magnificent 
red-brown mantle about him ; a round brooch adorned 
with gems of precious stones fastening it in his mantle over 
his right shoulder ; a striped tunic of silk with a golden 
hem next to his skin ; an ever-bright shield he bore ; a 
hard-smiting, threatening spear he held over him ; a very 
keen sword with hilt-piece of red gold on his thigh." " Who 
might that be, O Fergus ? " asked Ailill. " I know, then," 
replied Fergus : "it is battle against foes ; it is the incit- 
ing of strife ; it is the rage of a monster ; it is the madness 
of a lion ; it is the cunning of a snake ; it is the rock of the 

The Array of the Host 337 

. 555^' Badb ; it is the sea over dikes ; it is the shaking of rocks ; 
it is the stirring of a wild host, namely Conall Cernach 
(' the Victorious'), the high-glorious son of Amargin, that 
is come hither." ^^ 

** Yet another company came to the same mound in 
Slane of Meath," said macRoth. 1 " Very heroic and 
without number it is ; ^ steady and dissimilar to the other 
companies. ^ strange garments, unlike the other com- 
panies they wore. Famously have they come, both in 
arms and raiment and dress. A great host and fierce is 
that company. 2 Some wore red cloaks, others hght-blue 

I cloaks,* others dark blue cloaks, others green cloaks ; *LL. fo. looa. 
white and yellow jerkins, beautiful and shiny, were over 
them. Behold the little, freckled, red-faced lad with 
purple, 2 fringed ^ mantle * folded about him * amongst 

ithem in their midst. ^ Fairest of the forms of men was 
his form.* A salmon-shaped brooch of gold in the mantle 
over his breast ; a ® bright, hooded * tunic of royal silk 
with red trimming of red gold next to his white skin ; a 
bright shield with intricate figures of beasts in red gold 
upon it ; a boss of gold on the shield ; an edge of gold 
around it ; a small, gold-hilted sword at his waist ; a 
sharp, light lance cast its shadow over him." " But, who 
might he be ? " asked Aihll of Fergus. " Truly, I know 
not/' Fergus made answer, " that I left behind me in Ulster 
the like of that company nor of the little lad that is in it. 
But, one thing I think likely, that they are the men of Temair 
with ^ the well-favoured, wonderful, noble youth ^ Ere 
son of Fedilmid Nocruthach, ^ Conchobar's daughter,^ and 
of Carbre Niafer. And if it be they, they are not more 
friends than their leaders here. Mayhap despite his father 

12. ..12 See note 12, page 331. 

1-1 YBL. 49a. 41. =»-2 YBL. 49a, 42-44- 

3...3 YBL. 49a, 50. 4-* YBL. 49a, 50. 

»•••* YBL. 49a, 46-47. ••••« YBL. 49a, 52. 

'•••' YBL. 49b, 4-5. «•••• Stowe, H. i. 13 and YBL. 49b, 6. 


338 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5576. has this lad come to succour his grandfather" at this 
time. And if these they be, a sea that drowneth shall 
this company be to, ye, because it is through this company 
and the little lad that is in it that the battle shall this time 
be won against ye." " How through him ? " asked Ailill. 
" Not hard to tell,'* Fergus responded : "for this little lad 
will know neither fear nor dread when slaying and slaughter- 
ing, until at length he comes into the midst of your bat- 
talion. Then shall be heard the whirr of Conchobar's sword 
like the yelp of a howUng war-hound, or like a lion rushing 
among bears, ^ while the boy will be saved. ^ Then outside 
around the battle lines will Conchobar pile up huge 
walls of men's bodies ^ while he seeks the little lad.^ 
In turn the princes of the men of Ulster, filled with 
love and devotion, will hew the enemy to pieces. Boldly 
will those powerful bulls, ^ the brave warriors of Ulster, ^ 
bellow as * their grandson,* the calf of their ^ cow,^ is rescued 
in the battle on the morn of the morrow." 

® "Then came there three huge (?), strong, well-braced, 
cunningly-built castles ; three mighty, wheeled-towers 
like unto mountains, in this wise placed in position : Three 
royal castles with their thirty fully armed battalions, 
swarming with evil-tongued warriors and with thirty 
round-shielded heroes. A bright, beautiful, gUstening 
shield-guard was on each of the three strong, stout battle- 
castles, with black, deadly armament of huge, high, blue, 
sharp pine-lances, such that one's bent knee would fit in 
the socket of each smooth, polished, even and hard spear- 
head that is on each huge, terrible, strange shaft of the 
terrible, awful, heavy, monstrous, indescribable armament 

*■ That is, Conchobar. ^•"'^ YBL. 49b, 17. 

2.. .2 YBL. 49b, 18. 3". 3 YBL. 49b, 19-20. 

*•••* Stowe ; that is. Ere son of Fedlimid, Conchobar's daughter. 
^-^ ' Of their heart,' YBL. 49b, 13. 

••••• The following passage, to page 342, is taken from Stowe and 
H. I. 13 ; it is not found in LL. 

The Array of the Host 339 

5598. that I saw. A third part of each shaft was contained in 
the socket of the riveted, very long, securely placed spears ; 
as high as ^ two ^ cubits was each citadel from the ground ; 
as long as a warrior's spear was the height of each battle- 
hurdle ; as sharp as charmed sword was the blade of each 
sickle on the sides and the flanks of each of 2 Badb's hur- 
dles ; 2 on each of the three stout and hard battle-hurdles 
they are to be found. Four dark, yet gleaming, well- 
adorned doors were on each battle-wheeled tower of the 
three royal wheeled-towers which were displayed and spread 
over the plain, with ivory door-posts, with lintels of cypress, 
with stately thresholds set of speckled, beautiful, strong 
pine, with their blue, glass door-leaves, with the gUtter 
of crystal gems around each door-frame, so that its appear- 
ance from afar was like that of bright shining stars. As 
loud as the crash of a. mighty wave at the great spring-tide, 
or of a huge heavy fleet upon the sea when toiling with 
the oars along the shore, was the similitude of the din and 
the clamour and the shouts and the tumult of the multitude 
and the to-and-fro of the thirty champions with their thirty 
heavy, iron clubs that they bear in their hands. And when 
the wheeled-towers advance massively and boldly against 
the line of heroes, these almost leave behind their arms at 
the fierce charge of the outland battalions. Then spring 
the three hundred champions with a shout of vengeful 
anger over the sides and over the front of the huge iron 
towers on wheels, so that this it was that checked the swift 
course and the great, hasty onslaught of the well-grounded, 
swiftly-moving, mighty chariots. The three stout, strong, 
battle-proof towers on wheels careered over rough places 
and over obstacles, over rocks and over heights. There 
coursed the thirty entire chargers, powerful, strong-backed, 
four abreast, the equad of ninety entire chargers, with 

1-1 H. I. 13 and Add. 18,748. 
2-"2 That is, the movable towers. 

340 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5622. manes more than big, bold" and leaping, with sack-like, 
distended nostrils, high-headed, towering, over-powering, 
wonderful, so that they shook with their ramping the thick 
shell of the sad-sodded earth. They flecked the plain 
behind them with the foam dripping from the ^ swift ^ 
Danish steeds, from the bits and bridles, from the traces and 
tracks of the huge, maned, mighty^ steeds, greater than 
can be told ! They excited strife with their din of arms. 
They plunged headlong in their swift impatience. They 
aroused great terror at their accoutrement, at their armour, 
at their cunning, at their power, at their hugeness, at their 
destructive, terrible, hostile vengeance on the four grand, 
proud provinces of Erin. Amazing to me was their appear- 
ance because of the unwontedness of their trappings both 
in form and in garb. Three wonderful flights of birds with 
variety of appearance hovered over them. The first flock 
was all red, the second flock was white as swans, the third 
flock as black as ravens. Three red-mouthed, crow-shaped 
demons of battle sped around them as swift as hares, circling 
the three wheeled towers, and this is what they prophesied : — 

" Sheaves" of battle. 
Might of queuing, 
111 of war-deeds. 
Sating of foul ravens ! 
Sodden ground, blood-red ; 
Men low in dust ; 
Sheaves « on sword-blades ! " 

" They wheeled about and brought them twelve ** battle- 
pillars of thick, huge, iron pillars. As thick as the middle 
of a warrior's thigh, as tall as a champion's spear was each 
battle-fork of them, and they placed four forks under each 

* Following the emendation bairnech, suggested by Windisch. 
1-1 H. I. 13. 

* Following the emendation moradbal, suggested by Windisch. 

* That is, the layers of the slain. 

^ That is, a battle-pillar or prop for each of the four wheels of 
each of the three towers. 

The Array of the Host 341 

V. 5646. wheeled-tower. And their horses all ran from them and 
grazed upon the plain. And those forty" that had gone 
in advance descend clad in armour on the plain, and the 
garrison of the three battle-wheeled towers falls to attack- 
ing and harassing them, and is attacked and harassed in 
turn by those forty champions, so that there was heard the 
breaking of shields and the loud blows of hard iron poles 
on bucklers and battle-helmets, on coats of mail and on the 
iron plates of smooth, hard, blue-black, sharp-beaked, 
forked spears. And in the whole camp there is none but 
is on the watch for their fierceness and their wrath and 
their cunning and their strangeness, for their fury, their 
achievements and the excellence of their guard. And in 
the place where the forty champions are and the thousand 
armed men contending with them, not one of the thousand 
had a wounding stroke nor a blow on his opponent be- 
cause of the might of their skill in arms and the excellence 
of their defence withal ! " 

" They are hard to contend with for all such as are un- 
familiar with them, is the opinion held of them," spake 
Fergus, " but they are readily to be dealt with for such as 
do know them. These are three battle- wheeled towers," 
Fergus continued, ** as I perceive from their account. 
Once I saw their like, namely when as prentice I accom- 
panied Dare to Spain, so that we entered the service of 
the king of Spain, Esorb to wit, and we afterwards made 
an expedition to Soda, that is, to the king of Africa, and 
we gave battle to the Carthaginians. There came their like 
upon us against the battle-Hne wherein we were, an hundred 
battalions and three score hundred in each battalion. One 
of the wheeled-towers won victory over us all, for we were 
not on our guard against them. And this is the way to 
defeat them : To mine a hole broader than the tower in 
the ground in the front thereof and cover over the pitfall ; 

" This is the first mention of the ' forty.' 

342 • Tain Bo Ciialnge 

W. 5669. and for the battle-line to be drawn up over against it and 
not to advance to attack, so that it is the towers that ad- 
vance and fall into the pit. Lebarcham told me, as I passed 
over Taltiu, that the Ulstermen brought these towers from 
Germany, and the towers held a third of the exiles of Ulster 
among them as their only dwelling ; and Cualgae (* a Heap 
of Spears ') is their name, namely battle-penfolds. And 
herein have ye the sorest of all hardships, for although all 
the men of Erin are drawn up against them, it is the men of 
Erin that will be defeated. When they take it upon them 
to engage in battle they cannot hold out without a combat. 
Thus will they remain now till morning, every forty men 
of them contending with the others. And this is my advice 
to you," said Fergus : " permit me with my division to 
withstand them, and do ye betake yourselves to the woods 
and wilds of Erin, and the Ulstermen shall not find ye in 
any place, and I will proceed as an example, depending on 
my own men-of-war." " There are men here for ye ! " 
cried Medb. " That will be a force for yourselves," Fergus 
made answer.^ 

" Yet another company came there to the same height 
in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. " Not fewer than a 
division was in it ; vv^ild, dark-red, warrior-bands ; ^ bright, 
clear, blue-purple men ; ^ long, fair-yellow heads of hair 
they wore ; handsome, shining countenances they had ; 
clear, kingly eyes ; magnificent vesture with beautiful 
mantles ; conspicuous, golden brooches along their bright- 
coloured sleeves ; silken, glossy tunics ; blue, glassy spears ; 
yellow shields for striking withal ; gold-hilted, inlaid 
swords set on their thighs ; loud-tongued care has beset 
them ; sorrowful are they all, and mournful ; sad are 
the royal leaders ; orphaned the brilliant company with- 

«•••« See note 6, page 338. 

^•••i This seems out of place here ; it is not found in Stowe nor 
in H, I. 13. 

The Array of the Host 343 

W. 5689. out their protecting lord who was wont to guard their 
lands/' " But, who may they be ? " asked Aihll of Fer- 
gus. " Indeed, we know them well," Fergus made answer. 
" Furious lions are they ; deeds of battle ; the division from 
the field of Murthemne are they.* It is this that makes ♦LL. fo.ioc 
them cast-down, sorrowful, joyless ^ as they are,^ because 
that their own divisional king himself is not amongst them, 
even Cuchulain, the restraining, victorious, red-sworded one 
that triumpheth in battle ! " *' Good reason, in truth, there 
is for them to be so," quoth Medb, " if they are dejected, 
mournful and joyless. There is no evil we have not worked 
on them. We have harassed and we have assailed them, 
2 their territory and their land,^ from Monday at the be- 
ginning of Samaintide till the beginning of Spring.** We 
have taken their women and their sons and their youths, 
their steeds and their troops of horses, their herds and their 
flocks and their droves. We have razed their hills after 
them till they are become lowlands, so that they are level 
with the plain. ^ We have brought their lords to bloody 
stabs and sores, to cuts and many wounds." ^ ** Not so, O 
Medb ! " cried Fergus. " There is naught thou canst boast 
over them. For thou didst them no hurt nor harm that yon 
fine company's leader avenged not on thee. For, every 
mound and every grave, every stone and every tomb that 
is from hence to the east of Erin is the mound and the grave, 
the stone and the tomb of some goodly warrior and goodly 
youth *of thy people,* faUen at the hands of the noble 
chieftain of yonder company. Happy he to whom they 
hold ! Woe to him whom they oppose ! It will be enough, 
e'en as much as half a battle, for the men of Erin, when these 
defend their lord in the battle on the morning of the 

'* I heard a great uproar there, west of the battle or to 

»•••! Stowe. , 2.. .2 stowe. ^ — '^ Stowe and H. i. 13. 

*•••'* Stowe. * See notes " and *, page 182. 

344 i Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5711. its east/' said macRoth. " Say, what noise was it ? " 
asked Ailill of Fergus. " Ah, but we know it well," Fergus 
made answer : " Cuchulain it was, straining to go, sick 
as he is, to battle, wearied at the length of his l5dng sick on 
Fert Sciach (' Thorn-mound ') under hoops and clasps and 
ropes, and the men of Ulster do not permit him to go be- 
cause of his sores and his wounds, inasmuch as he is not 
fit for battle and is powerless for combat after his encounter 
with Ferdiad." 

True indeed spake Fergus. Cuchulain it was, wearied 
at the length of his lying supine on Fert Sciach under hoops 
and clasps and ropes. ^ " But, there is one thing more to 
tell," said Fergus : " unless he be held back now, he will 
surely come to the battle ! " 

Thus far the Companies of the Tain Bo Cualnge ^ ^ mus- 
tered by Conchobar and the men of Ulster. ^ 

Then came two women lampoonists from the camp and 
quarters of the men of Erin; ^ their names, ^ Fethan and 
Collach, to wit ; and they stood with a feint of weeping 
and wailing over Cuchulain, telling him of the defeat of 
Ulster and the death of Conchobar and the fall of Fergus 
in combat. 

* Now Conchobar proceeded with his troops till he pitched 
camp nearby his companions. Conchobar asked a truce of 
Ailill till sunrise on the morrow, and AiHll granted it for the 
men of Erin and the exiles, and Conchobar granted it for 
the men of Ulster, and thereupon Conchobar's tents were 
pitched. In this way the ground was bare between them, 
and the Ulstermen came thither at sunset.* 

1-1 Stowe and H. i. 13. *-2 H. i. 13. ^...s stowe. 

4...* YBL. 50a, II. 



W. 5727. It was on that night that the Morrigan/ daughter of Em- 
mas, came, and she was engaged m fomenting strife and 
sowing dissension between the two camps on either side, 
and she spoke these words ^ in the twihght between the 
two encampments ^ : — 

" Ravens shall pick 
The necks of men ! 
Blood shall gush 
3 In combat wild ! ^ 
Skins shall be hacked ; 
Crazed with spoils ! 
* Men's sides pierced * 
In battle brave, 
Luibnech near ! 
Warriors' storm; 
Mien of braves; 
Cniachan's men ! 
^ Upon them comes * 
Ruin complete ! 
Lines shall be strewn 
Under foot ; 
Their race die out ! 
Then Ulster hail : 
To Erna * woe ! 
To Ulster woe : 
« Then Erna hail ! « 
(This she said in Ema's ear.) 
Naught inglorious shall they do 
Who them await ! " 

^•••1 YBL. 41a, 7. • The Irish goddess of war. 

2. -a YBL. 50a, 18-19. »• "3 YBL. 50a, 19. *•••* YBL. 50a, 21. 
^•■'^ Translating from YBL. 50a, 23; LL. appears to be corrupt. 
* The Munstermen in Ailill's army. ••••• YBL. 50a, 26. 


346 • Tain Bo Cualnge 

^Now Cuchulain was at Fedain Collna near by. Food 
was brought to him that night by the purveyors, and they 
were used to come to converse with him by day. He killed 
not any of the men of Erin to the left of Ferdiad's Ford.^ 
W. 5756. It was then that Cuchulain spake to Laeg son of Riangabair. 
" It would surely be unworthy of thee, O Laeg my master," 
said Cuchulain, " if between the two battle-lines there 
should happen anything to-day whereof thou hadst no 
tidings for me." " Whatsoever I shall learn, O Cucucuc," 
answered Laeg, " will be told thee. But, see yonder a 
little flock coming forth on the plain from the western camp 
♦LL. fo.ioia. and station now.* Behold a band of henchmen after 
them to check and to stay them. Behold also a company 
of henchmen emerging from the eastern camp and station 
to seize them." " Surely, that is so ! " exclaimed Cuchu- 
lain. " That bodes a mighty combat and is the occasion 
of a grand battle. The little flock will come over the plain 
and the band of henchmen ^ from the east and the band 
of henchmen from the west ^ s ^ni encounter one another 
betimes * about the little flock* on the great field of 
battle." 3 There, indeed, Cuchulain spoke true. And the 
little flock came forth upon the plain, and the companies of 
henchmen met in fray. " Who gives the battle now, O 
Laeg my master," Cuchulain asked. " The folk of Ulster," 
Laeg answered : " that is the same as the young warriors 
5 of Ulster." 5 " But how fight they ? " Cuchulain asked. 
** Like men they fight," Laeg answered. " There where 
are the heroes of valour from the east in battle, they 
force a breach through the ranks to the west. There where 
are the heroes from the west, they lay a breach through 
the ranks to the eastward." '^ '* It would be a vow for them 
to fall in rescuing their herds," said Cuchulain; "and 

1--1 YBL. 50a, 28-31. 2...2 stowe and H. i. 13. 

3- -3 LL. seems to be defective here. *•••* Stowe and H. i. 13. 
5— « Stowe and H. i. 13. «— « YBL. 50a, 39-43- 

The Decision of the Battle 347 

now ? " " The beardless youths are fighting now," said 
the charioteer. " Has a bright cloud come over the sun 
yet ? " Cuchulain asked. " Nay, then," the charioteer 
W. 5774- answered. « " I grieve that I am not yet strong enough to 
be on my feet amongst them. For, were I able to be on my 
feet amongst them, my breach would be manifest there 
to-day like that of another ! " " But, this avow, O Cucuc," 
said Laeg : "it is no reproach to thy valour ; it is no dis- 
grace to thine honour. Thou hast done bravely in time 
before now and thou wilt do bravely hereafter." 

1 About the hour of sunrise : " It is a haughty folk that 
now fight the battle," quoth the charioteer ; " but there 
are no kings amongst them, for sleep is still upon them." ^ 
" Come, O my master Laeg ! " cried Cuchulain ; " rouse the 
men of Ulster to the battle now, for it is time that they 

2 Then, when the sun arose, ^ ^ Cuchulain saw the kings 
from the east putting their crowns on their heads and 
relieving their men-at-arms. Cuchulain told his charioteer 
to awaken the men of Ulster. ^ Laeg came and roused the 
men of Ulster to battle, and he uttered these words there : — 

" Arise, ye kings of Macha, 
Valiant in your deeds ! 
Imbel's kine the Badb doth covet : 
* Blood of hearts pours out ! 
Goodly heroes' battle rushes in * 
With deeds of valour ! 
Hearts all red with gore : 
Brows turned in flight. 
Dismay of battle riseth. 
For there was never found 
One like unto Cuchulain, 
Hound that Macha's « weal doth work! 
If it is for Cualnge's kine. 
Let them now arise ! " 

1-1 YBL. 5da, 45-47. ^-^ YBL. 50a, 48. 

3...3 YBL. 50b, 18-23. 4-* YBL. 50b, 27-29. 

« Another name for Badb, the battle-fury. 



Thereupon arose aU the men of Ulster at the one time in 
the train of their king, and at the word of their prince, and to 
prepare for the uprising in response to the call of Laeg son 
of Riangabair. And in this wise they arose : stark-naked 
all of them, only their weapons in their hands. Each one 
whose tent door looked to the east, through the tent westwards 
he went, for that he deemed it too long to go round about 

"How arise the Ulstermen now to ^ the battle, ^ Q 
Laeg my master ? " asked Cuchulain. " Manfully they 
rise," said Laeg: "stark-naked all of them, ^ except for 
their arms only.^ Every man whose tent-door faces the 
east, through the tent westwards he goes, for he deems it 
too long to go round about it." "I pledge my word ! " 
cried Cuchulain : " at a fitting hour have they now in the 
early day risen around Conchobar ! " 

Then spake Conchobar to Sencha son of Ailill : " Come, 
O Sencha my master," said Conchobar; "stay the men 
of Ulster, and let them not go to the battle till there come 
the strength of a good omen and favourable portent, till 
the sun mounts to the roof-tree of heaven and sunshine 
fills the glens and lowlands and hills and watch-towers of 

^•••1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

2.. .2 H. I. 13, Add., Stowe, and YBL. 50b, 34. 

3-3 YBL. 50b, 34. 


The Battle of Garech 349 

W. 5822. They tarried there till the strength of a good omen came 
and a favourable portent, till sunshine filled the glens and 
slopes and heights and watch-towers of the province. 

" Come, O Sencha my master,'* said Conchobar ; " rouse 
the men of Ulster to battle, for it is time for them to proceed 
thither." Sencha roused the men of Ulster to battle, and 
he spake these words : — 

" Now shall Macha's kings arise. 
Large-hearted folk ! 
Weapons let them shatter : 
Let them fight the battle : 
Let them plow the earth in anger : 
Let them strike on shields ! 

1 Wearied all the hands ; ^ 
Herds loud bellowing : 
Steadfast the resistance : 
Furious the retainers : 
Battle-lines shall prostrate fall 
'Neath the feet of others ! 

2 Prince and lord prepare for battle.* 
Perish * shall their race ! *LL. fo.ioil 

3 Manful contest there shall be ; » 
Their foes they lie in wait for 
And slay them all to-day ! 
Deep draughts of blood they drink : 
Grief fills the hearts of queens : 
* Tender lamentations follow : 
Till soaked in blood shall be the grassy sod 
On which they're slain. 
To which they come.* 
If for Cualnge's kine it be, 
^ Let Macha's kings ! * Let them arise ! 

Not long was Laeg there when he witnessed something : the 
men of Erin all arising at one time, taking their shields 
and their spears and their swords and their helmets, and 
urging the men-of-war before them to the battle. The 
men of Erin, every single man of them, fell to smite and to 
batter, to cut and to hew, to slay and to destroy the others 

^•••1 Reading with YBL 50a, 52. 

2... 2 From a conjectural emendation of YBL. 50a, 54. 

»-3 YBL. 50b, I. *•••* YBL. 50b. 3. 

»•..» YBL. 50b, 5. 

350 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

5859. for a long space and while. Thereupon Cuchulain asked 
of his charioteer, of Laeg son of Riangabair, at the time 
that a bright cloud came over the sun : ^ " Look for us ! ' 
How fight 2 the Ulstermen ^ the battle now, O my master 
Laeg ? " " Like men they fight," Laeg answered. " Should 
I mount my chariot, and En, Conall ^ Cemach's (' the Vic- 
torious ' ) ^ charioteer, his chariot, and should we go in two 
chariots from one wing to the other on the points of the 
weapons, neither hoof nor wheel nor axle-tree nor chariot- 
pole would touch * the ground * for the denseness and 
closeness and firmness with which their arms are held in the 
hands of the men-at-arms at this time." 

'* Alas, that I am not yet strong enough to be amongst 
them ^ now ! " ^ cried Cuchulain ; " for, were I able, my 
breach would be manifest there to-day like that of another," 
spake Cuchulain. " But this avow, O Cucuc," said Laeg : 
" 'tis no reproach to thy valour ; 'tis no disgrace to thine 
honour. Thou hast wrought great deeds before now and 
thou wilt work great deeds hereafter." 

Then began the men of Erin to smite and to batter, to 
cut and to hew, to slay and to destroy the others for a long 
space and while. Next came to them the nine chariot- 
lighters of the champions from Norseland, and the three 
foot-warriors along with them, and no swifter were the 
nine chariot-men than the three men on foot. 

Then came to them also ^ on the ford of hosting * the 
governors of the men of Erin. And this was their sole 
office ' with Medb ^ in the battle : to smite to death Con- 
chobar if it were he that suffered defeat, and to rescue Ailill 
and Medb if it should be they were defeated. And these 
are the names of the governors : 

1-1 YBL 51a, 45. 2. ..2 YBL. 51a, 45. 

3-3 Stowe, H. I. 13, Add. and YBL. 51a, 47. 

*•••* Stowe and Add. 

5"5 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. «•••« YBL. 51b, 6. 

'—' Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 




iV. 5883. The three Conare from Sliab Mis, the three Lussen from 
Luachair, the three Niadchorb from Tilach Loiscthe, the 
three Doelfer from Deill, the three Damaltach from Dergderc, 
the three Buder from the Buas, the three Baeth from Buag- 
nige, the three Buageltach from Mag Breg, the three Siiibne 
from the Siuir, the three Eochaid from Ane, the three 
Malleth from Loch Erne, the three Abatruad from Loch Ri, 
the three macAmra from Ess Ruaid, the three Fiacha from 
Fid Nemain, the three Mane from Muresc, the three Mure- 
dach from Mairg, the three Loegaire from Lecc Derg, the 
three Broduinde from the Berba, the three Bruchnech, 
from Cenn Abrat, the three Descertach from Druim Fomacht, 
the three Finn from Finnabair, the three Conall from 
Collamair, the three Carbre from Chu, the three Mane from 
Mossa, the three Scathglan from Scaire, the three Echtach 
from Erce, the three Trenfer from Taite, the three Fintan 
from Femen,* the three Rotanach from Rogne, the three *LL. £0.102; 
Sarchorach from Suide Lagen, the three Etarscel from 
Etarbane, the three Aed from Aidne, the three Guare from 

Then said Medb to Fergus : *' It were truly a thing to 
boast of for thee, 2 Q Fergus," said she,^ " werest thou 

^•••1 YBL. 50b, 41. 

« YBL. 5ob-5ia has more than three times as many names as are 
enumerated here. 

2-2 Stowe, Add. and H. i. 13. 


352 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5943- to use thy mightiness of battle ^ vehemently ^ without 
stint amongst us to-day, forasmuch as thou hast been driven 
out of thine own land and out of thine inheritance ; amongst 
us hast thou found land and domain and inheritance, and 
much good- will hath been shown thee ! " 

2 Thereupon Fergus uttered this oath : ''I swear," 
et reliqua, " jaws of men I would break from necks, necks 
of men with arms, arms of men with elbows, elbows of 
men with wrists, wrists of men with fists, fists of men with 
fingers, fingers of men with nails, nails " of men with scalps, 
scalps of men with trunks, trunks of men with thighs, 
thighs of men with knees, knees of men with calves, calves 
of men with feet, feet of men with toes, toes of men with 
nails, 2 so that ^ heads of men over shields ^ would be as 
numerous * with me * as bits of ice ^ on the miry stamping- 
ground ^ ® between two dry fields ^ that a king's horses 
would course on. Every limb of the Ulstermen ' would I 
send flying through the air ^ before and behind me this 
day s like the flitting of bees on a day of fine weather,' if 
only I had my sword! " 

At that Ailill spoke to his own charioteer, Ferloga, to 
wit : " Fetch me a quick sword that wounds the skin, O 
gilla," said Ailill. ^ " A year to-day I put that sword in 
thy hand in the flower of its condition and bloom.® I give 
my word, if its bloom and condition be the worse at thy 
hands this day than the day I gave it '^^ thee ^® on the hillside 
of Cruachan Ai ^^in the borders of Ulster, ^^ though thou 
hadst the men of Erin and of Alba to rescue thee from me 
to-day, they would not all save thee ! ** 

^•••^ Stowe, Add., and H. i. 13. 

2"-« I have given preference to the reading of YBL. 51b, 18-30. 

* A word is omitted here in the MS., presumably for, * nails.' 

3.-8 YBL. 51b, 19-20. 4-4 YBL. 51b, 19. 6-6 YBL. 51b, 20. 

^"•^ Adopting Windisch's emendation of the text» 

'•••» YBL. 51b, 31. 8-8 YBL. 51b, 32. 

»-» Stowe and YBL. 51b, 35. 

10-10 Stowe. 11-11 YBL. 51b, 36^ 

The Muster of the Men of Erin 353 

Ferloga went his way, and he brought the sword with 
him in the flower of its safe-keeping, and fair flaming as 
a candle. And the sword was placed in Ailill's hand and 
AiHll put it in Fergus' hand, and Fergus offered welcome 
to the sword : « " Welcome, O Calad Colg^ (' Hardblade '), 
Lete's sword ! " said he. " Weary, O champion of Badb ! 
On whom shall I ply this weapon ? " Fergus asked. " On 
the men-of-war around thee," Medb answered. " No one 
shall find indulgence nor quarter from thee to-day, unless 
some friend of thy bosom find it ! " 

Whereupon, Fergus took his arms and went forward to 
the battle, ^ and he cleared a gap of an hundred in the battle- 
ranks with his sword in his two hands. 1 Ailill seized his 
weapons. Medb seized her weapons and entered the battle. 

2 The Mane seized their arms and came to the battle. The 
macMagach seized their arms and came to the battle, ^ so 
that thrice the Ulstermen were routed before them from 
the north, till Cualgae ' and sword drove them back again. 

3 Or it was Cuchulain that drove the men of Erin before 
him, so that he brought them back into their former line 
in the battle. ^ 

Conchobar heard that from his place in the line of battle, 
that the battle had gone against him thrice fr m the north. 
Then he addressed his bodyguard, even the inner circle of 
the Red Branch : " Hold ye here a while, ye men ! " cried 
he ; " even in the line * of battle * where I am, that I may 
go and learn by whom the battle has been thus forced against 
us thrice from the north." Then said his household : '* We 
will hold out," said they, ^ " in the place wherein we are : ^ 

" Here follows in YBL. 51b, 38-57 a difficult passage m rose wiiich. 
I have omitted in the translation. Only a portion of it has been 
preserved in LL. and is here translated. 

^ Reading with Stowe, H. i. 13, Add. and YBL. 51b, 45. 

1-1 YBL. 52a, 6-8. 2.. .2 stowe, and, si nilarly, Add. 

* The name of the wheeled towers described above, page 338 fl. 

'•••3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

4"-4 Stowe. "«-6 YBL. 52a, 14. 


354 » Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 5974. for the sky is above us and the earth underneath and the 
sea round about us, ^ and ^ unless the heavens shall fall 
with their showers of stars on the man-face of the world, 
or unless the furrowed, blue-bordered ocean break o'er the 
tufted brow of the earth, or unless the ground yawns open, 
will we not move a thumb's breadth backward from here till 
the very day of doom and of everlasting life, till thou come 
back to us ! " 

Conchobar went his way to the place where he heard the 
*LL. fo.io2b. battle had gone three times * against him from the north. 
2 Then Conchobar made a rush at Fergus, ^ and he lifted 
shield against shield there, namely against Fergus mac 
Roig, even Ochain (' the Fair-ear ') " of Conchobar with 
its four ears of gold and its four bracings of red gold. There- 
with Fergus gave three stout blows of Badb on the Ochain 
of Conchobar, so that Conchobar's shield cried aloud on 
him ^ and the three chief waves of Erin gave answer, the 
Wave of Clidna, the Wave of Rudraige and the Wave of 
Tuag, to wit.^ Whenever Conchobar's shield cried out, 
the shields of all the Ulstermen cried out. However great 
the strength and power with which Fergus smote Conchobar 
on the shield, so great also was the might and valour where- 
with Conchobar held the shield, so that the ear of the shield 
did not even touch the ear of Conchobar. 

" Hearken, ye men * of Erin ! "* cried Fergus ; " who 
opposes a shield to me to-day on this day of battle when 
four of the five grand provinces of Erin come together on 
Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Cattle-raid of 
Cualnge ? " " Why, then, a gilla that is younger and 
mightier ^ and comelier ^ than thyself is here," ^ Con- 
chobar answered,^ " and whose mother and father were 

^•••i Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 2...2 yBL. 52a, 16-17. 

<* The name of Conchobar's shield. 

3--3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. *•••* Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 
"•••^ Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. «•••" Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

The Muster of the Men of Erin 355 

5995 • better ! The man that hath driven thee out of thy borders, 
thy land and thine inheritance ; the man that hath driven 
thee into the lairs of the deer and the wild hare and the foxes ; 
the man that hath not granted thee to take the breadth 
1 of thy foot ^ of thine own domain or land ; the man that 
hath made thee dependent upon the bounty of a woman ; 
the man that of a time disgraced thee by slaying the ^ three 
bright lights of the valour of the Gael,^ the three sons of 
Usnech that were under thy safeguard ^ and protection ; ^ 
the man that will repel thee this day in the presence of the 
men of Erin ; Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach son of 
Ross Ruad son of Rudraige, High King of Ulster and son 
of the High King of Erin ; ^ and though any one should 
insult thee, there is no satisfaction nor reparation for thee, 
for thou art in the service of a woman ! " * 

" Truly hath this happened to me." Fergus responded. 
And Fergus placed his two hands on Calad Colg (' Hard- 
blade '), and he heaved a blow with it backwards behind 
him, so that its point touched the ground, and he thought to 
strike his three fateful blows of Badb on the men of Ulster, 
so that their dead would be more in number than their 
living. Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar saw that 
and he rushed to ^ his foster-father, namely to ^ Fergus, 
and he closed his two ^ royal hands ® over him ' outside 
his armour.' ^ " Ungentle, not heedful is this, O Fergus 
my master ! Full of hate, not of friendship is this,^ O 
Fergus my master ! Let not the Ulstermen be slain and 
destroyed by thee through thy destructive blows, but take 
thou thought for their honour to-day on this day of battle ! " 

1 — 1 Stowe and H. i. 13. 2. ..2 stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 
3---3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

4"-* Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. ^--'^ Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 
«•••« Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 
'•••' Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

8. ..8 Following Windisch's emendation of the text. The MSS. 
are corrupt here. 


35^ • Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 6013. *' Get thee away from me, boy ! ^ Whom then should I 
strike ? " ^ exclaimed Fergus ; " for I will not remain alive 
unless I deliver my three fateful strokes of Badb on the 
men of Ulster this day, till their dead be more in number 
than their living." " Then turn thy hand slantwise," said 
Cormac Conlongas, " and slice off the hill-tops over the 
heads of the hosts ^ on every side 2 and this will be an 
appeasing of thine anger." " Tell Conchobar also to fall 
3 back again ^ to his place in the battle," * said Fergus ; 
" and I will no longer belabour the hosts." * ^ Cormac 
told this to Conchobar : ^ ^ " Go to the other side, O Con- 
chobar," said Cormac to his father, " and this man will 
not visit his anger any longer here on the men of Ulster." * 
So Conchobar went to his place in the battle. '^ In this 
manner Fergus and Conchobar parted.' 

^ Fergus turned away. He slew a hundred warriors of 
Ulster in the first onslaught with the sword. He met 
Conall Cemach. "Too great is this rage," said Conall, 
" upon people and kindred because of the whim of a wan- 
ton." " What would ye have me do, ye warriors ? " asked 
Fergus. " Smite the hills crosswise and the bushes around," 
Conall Cernach made answer.^ 

Thus it was with that sword, which was the sword of 
Fergus : The sword of Fergus, the sword of Lete from 
Faery: Whenever he desired to strike with it, it became 
the size of a rainbow in the air. Thereupon Fergus turned 
his hand slantwise over the heads of the hosts, so that he 
smote the three tops of the three hills, so that they are still 
on the moor in sight of ^ the men of Erin.^ And these 
are the three Maels (* the Balds ') of Meath in that place. 

1-1 YBL. 52a, 35. 2...2 YBL. 52a, 36. 

^•••9 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 4-* Slowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

^•••5 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. «•••« YBL. 52a, 39-41- 

'•••' Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

8-"* YBL. 52a, 41-47. »•••» Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

The Muster of the Men of Erin 357 

1 which Fergus smote as a reproach and a rebuke to the 
men of Ulster.^ 
6027. Now as regards Cuchulain. He heard the Ochain of 
Conchobar smitten by Fergus macRoig. " Come, O Laeg 
my master," cried Cuchulain : " who dares thus smite 2 with 
those strong blows, mighty and far-away, 2 the Ochain of 
Conchobar my master, and I ahve ? " ^ jj^g^^ L^^g made 
answer, saying : " The choice of men, Fergus macRoig, 
the very bold, smites it : — ^ 

" Blood he sheds — increase of slaughter — 
Splendid the hero, Fergus macRoig ! 
Hidden had lain Fairyland's chariot-sword ! 
Battle now hath reached the shield. 
Shield of my master Conchobar ! " 

* " How far have the hosts advanced, O Laeg ? " Cuchu- 
lain asked. " They have come to Garech," Laeg answered. 
*' I give my word for that," Cuchulain cried ; " they will 
not come as far as Ilgarech, if I catch up with them ! * Quickly 
unloose the bands, gilla ! " cried Cuchulain. ^ " Blood 
covers men. Feats of swords shall be done. Men shall 
be spent therefrom ! " ^ 

^ Since Cuchulain 's going into battle had been prevented, 
his twisting fit came upon him, and seven and twenty skin 
tunics were given to him that used to be about him under 
strings and cords when going into battle.^ * Then Cuchulain *lL fo.io3a. 
gave a mighty spring, so that the bindings of his wounds flew 
from him to Mag Tuag (* the Plain of the Bows ') in Connacht. 
His bracings went from him to Bacca (' the Props ') in Cor- 
comruad ^ in the district of Boirenn."^ ^ His supports 
sprang from him to ^ Rath ^ Cinn Bara (' the Rath of Spit- 
head ') in Ulster, and likewise his pins flew from him to Rath 
Clo (' the Rath of the Nails ') in the land of the tribe of Conall.* 
The dry wisps that were stuffed in his wounds rose to the roof 

1---1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 2.. .2 yBL. 52a, 52. 

3... 3 YBL. 52b, 1-2. 4... 4 stowe. ^...s ybl. 52b, 7-8. 

6. ..6 YBL. 52b, 17-20. '•••' Stowe and Add. 

^•••8 Stowe. 9--^ Add. and H. i. 13. 

358 Tain B6 Cualnge 

W. 6040. of the air and the sky as highest larks fly on a day of 
sunshine when there is no wind. Thereupon, his bloody 
wounds got the better of him, so that the ditches and furrows 
of the earth were full of streams of blood and torrents of 

1 Some of the narrators aver that it was the strength of 
the warrior and champion that hurled these things ^ to the 
aforementioned places ; ^ but it was not that, but his 
powerful friends, the fairy-folk, that brought them thither, 
to the end to make famous his history, so that from them 
these places are named. ^ 

This was the first exploit of valour that Cuchulain per- 
formed on rising ^ out of his weakness : ^ The two women 
lampoonists that made a feint of weeping and wailing * over 
his head,* Fethan and CoUach to wit, he smote each of them 
against the head of the other, so that he" was red with 
their blood and grey with their brains. ^ These women had 
come from Medb to raise a pretended lamentation over him, 
to the end that his bloody wounds might burst forth on him, 
and to tell him that the men of Ulster had met with defeat 
and that Fergus had fallen in meeting the battle.^ His 
arms had not been left near him, except his chariot only. 
And he took his chariot on his back ^ with its frame and 
its two axle-trees,^ and he set out to attack the men of 
Erin, and he smote them with the chariot, until he reached 
the place where Fergus macRoig was. " Turn hither, 
O Fergus my master ! " he cried. Fergus did not answer, 
for he heard not. He spoke again, " Turn hither, "^ turn 
hither,"^ O Fergus my master ! " he cried ; " and if thou 
turn not, ^ I swear to god what the Ulstermen swear,® I 

1-1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 2. ..2 Add. 

3---3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 
*•••* Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

• ' The ground,' Stowe, H. 1. 13 and Add. ; ' so that each of them 
was grey with the brains of the other,' YBL. 52b, 13-14. 
»-6 YBL. 52b, 14-17. «•••« YBL. 52b, 21. 

'•••' H. I. 13 and Add. s--* YBL. 52b, 24. 

The Muster of the Men of Erin 359 

^6o52. will grind thee as a mill grinds fresh grain; I will wash 
thee as a cup is washed in a tub ; I will bind thee 
as the woodbine binds the trees ; I will pounce on thee 
as hawk pounces on fledglings ; ^ I will go over thee as 
its tail goes over a cat ; ^ ^ I will pierce thee as a tool 
bores through a tree-trunk ; I will pound thee as a fish is 
pounded on the sand ! " ^ " Truly this is my lot ! " spake 
Fergus. " Who ^ of the men of Erin ^ dares to address 
these stiff, vengeful words to me, where now the four grand 
provinces of Erin are met on Garech and Ilgarech in the 
battle of the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge ? " " Thy 
fosterling is before thee," he replied, " and fosterling of 
the men of Ulster and of Conchobar as well, Cuchulain son 
of Sualtaim * and sister's son to'Conchobar," replied Cuchu- 
lain.* "And thou didst promise to flee before me what 
time I should be wounded, in pools of gore and riddled in 
the battle of the Tain.* For, ^ when thou hadst not thy 
sword with thee,^ I did flee before thee in thine own combat 
on the Tain; ^ and do thou avoid me," said he. " Even 
that did I promise," Fergus answered. "Away with thee, 
then ! " cried Cuchulain. " Tis well," replied Fergus ; 
" thou didst avoid me ; now thou art pierced with 
wounds." ^ 

Fergus gave ear to that word of Cuchulain, and he turned 
and made his three great strides of a hero '^ back from 
Cuchulain and turned in flight from him.' And as he 
turned ^ with his company of three thousand warriors and 
the Leinstermen following after Fergus^for it is under 
Fergus' warrant they had come ^ — ^ and the men of Munster,^ 
there turned all the men of Erin. 

1---1 YBL. 52b, 24-25. 

2-2 H. I. 13 and Add. ^...a yBL. 52b, 27. 

4. ..4 YBL. 52b, 28. « See page 207. 

«--5 H. I. 13 and Add. ^...e ybl. 52b, 29-33. 

'•••' H. I. 13 and Add. 

«-8 H. I. 13 and Add. »•••» YBL. 52b, 33. 

360 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

6065. ^ Then ^ the men of Erin broke their ranks westwards 
over the hill. The battle raged around the men of Con- 
nacht, 2 around Aihil and his division and around Medb 
with hers and around the Mane with theirs and the mac 
Magach with theirs. ^ At midday Cuchulain came to the 
battle. At the time of sunset at the ninth hour ^ as the 
sun entered the tresses of the wood, ^ * when man and 
tree were no more to be known apart, Medb and * the last 
company of the men of Connacht fled in rout westwards 
over the hill. 

At that time there did not remain in Cuchulain 's hand 
of the chariot but a handful of its spokes around the wheel, 
and a handbreadth of its poles around the shell, with the 
slaying and slaughtering of the four grand provinces of 
Erin during all that time. 

Then Medb betook her to a shield-shelter in the rear of 
the men of Erin. Thereafter Medb sent off the Brown 
Bull of Cualnge along with fifty of his heifers and eight of 
her runners with him around to Cruachan, to the end that 
whoso might and whoso might not escape, the Brown Bull 
of Cualnge should get away safely, even as she had promised. 

Then it was that the issue of blood came upon Medb, 
^ and she said : "Do thou, Fergus, undertake ^ a shield- 
shelter in the rear of the men of Erin till I let my water flow 
from me." " By my troth," replied Fergus, " 'tis an ill 
hour for thee to be taken so." " Howbeit there is no help 
for me," Medb answered ; "for I shall not live if I do 
not void water ! " Fergus accordingly came and raised a 
shield-shelter in the rear of the men of Erin. Medb voided 
her water, so that it made three large dikes, so that a mill " 
could find room in each dike. Hence the place is known 
as Fual Medbha (' Medb's Water '). 

1-1 H. I. 13 and Add. 2. ..2 h. i. 13 and Add. 

3... 3 YBL. 52b, 36. 4—* H. I. 13 and Add. 

'•••5 H. I. 13 and Add. 

• It is not uncommon in folk-tales that lakes, rivers, etc. arose 
irom the micturition of a giant or fairy. « Reading with Add. 

The Muster of the Men of Erin 361 

Cuchulain came upon her as she was thus engaged, ^ on 
his way to the battle, ^ and he did not attack her. He 
would not strike her a blow from behind. 2 He spared 
her then because it was not his wont to slay women. 2 
3 " Spare me ! " cried Medb. " If I should slay thee, it 
were just for me," Cuchulain answered. ^ *" Arise from 
hence," said he ; " f or I deem it no honour to wound thee 
from behind with my weapons." * "I crave a boon of 
thee this day, O Cuchulain," spake Medb. " What boon 
era vest thou ^ of me ? " ^ asked Cuchulain. " That this 
host be under thine honour and thy protection till they 
pass westwards over Ath Mor ('the Great Ford ')."* * 103b. 
'* Yea, I promise that," said Cuchulain. ^ Then ^ went 
Cuchulain around the men of Erin, and he undertook a 
shield-defence on one side of them, in order to protect the 
men of Erin. On the other side went the governors of 
the men of Erin. -Medb went to her own place and assumed 
a shield- defence in the rear of the men of Erin, and in 
this manner they convoyed the men of Erin over Ath Mor 

^ Then Laeg ^ son of Riangabair ® brought Cuchulain's 
sword unto him, ^ the ' Hard-headed Steeling ' to wit,^ and 
Cuchulain took the sword in his hand.'' Then he ^'^ stood 
still and '^^ gave a blow to the three bald-topped hills of Ath 
Luain over against the three Maela {' the Bald Tops ') of 
Meath, so that he struck their three heads off them. ^^ And 
they are in the bog as a witness ever since. Hence these are 
the Maolain (' the Flat Tops ') of Ath Luain. Cuchulain cut 
them off as a reproach and affront to the men of Connacht, 
in order that every time men should speak of Meath's 

1-1 YBL. 52b, 41. 4 2.. .2 H. I. 13 and Add. 

'•"3 YBL. 52b, 41-42. 4. ..4 H. I. 13 and Add. 

^•••« H. I. 13. «•••« H. I. 13 and Add. 

'•••■' H. I. 13 and Add. s-s Add. 

»•••» YBL. 52b, 43. »»-i° YBL. 52b. 45. 
11-11 H. I. 13 and Add. 

362 ' Tain Bo Cualnge 

three Bald Tops, these in the west should be the answer : 
the ' Three Flat Tops of Ath Luain.' ^^ 
W. 6099. Then ^ when the battle had been lost/ Fergus ^ began to 
view 2 the host as it went westwards of AthMor. " It was 
thus indeed it behoved this day to prove, for following in the 
lead of a woman," ^ said Fergus. ^ "Faults and feuds 
have met here to-day," * said Medb * to Fergus. " Be- 
trayed and sold is this host to-day," ^Fergus answered.^ 
" And even as a brood-mare leads her foals into a land un- 
known, without a head to advise or give counsel before them, 
such is the pUght of this host to-day ^ in the train of a 
woman that hath ill counselled them." ^ 

■^ Then Cuchulain turned to where Conchobar was with 
the nobles of Ulster before him. Conchobar bewailed 
and lamented Cuchulain, and then he uttered this lay : — 

" How is this, O Cualnge's Hound, 
Hero of the Red Branch, thou : 
Great woe, champion, hast thou borne, 
Batthng in thy land's defence ! 

" Every morn a hundred slain. 
Every eve a hundred more, 
While the host purveyed thy fare. 
Feeding thee with cooling food ! 

"Five-score heroes of the hosts. 
These I reckon are in graves. 
While their women — fair their hue — 
Spend the night bewailing them ! " ' 

1-1 YBL. 52b, 47-48. 

2-2 Reading with H. i. 13. ^...s h. i. 13 and Add, 

4-4 YBL. 52b, 48. ^'-^ H. I. 13 and Add. 

6.. .6 YBL. 52b, 52. '•••' H. I. 13. 



612 1. As regards Medb, it is related here : 2 She suffered not the 
hosts to disperse forthwith, ^ but she gathered the men of 
Erin and led them forth to Cruachan to behold the battle 
of the bulls ^ and in what manner they would part from 
one another. For during the while the battle was being 
fought, the Brown Bull of Cualnge with fifty heifers in his 
company had been brought to Cruachan. ^ 

As regards the Brown Bull of Cualnge, it is now recounted 
in this place : When he saw the beautiful, strange land, he 
sent forth his three bellowing calls aloud. And Finn- 
bennach Ai (' the Whitehorned of Ai ') heard him. Now no 
male beast durst * send forth * a low that was louder 
than a moo in compare with him within the four fords of 
all Ai, Ath Moga and Ath Coltna, Ath SHssen and Ath 
Bercha. And ^ the Whitehorned ^ lifted his head with 
fierce anger ^ at the bellowing of the Brown of Cualnge,^ 
and he hastened to Cruachan to look for the Brown Bull of 

It was then the men of Erin debated who would be 
7 fitted 7 to witness « the fight « of the bulls. They all agreed 
that it should be Bricriu son of Carbad ^ that were fitted 
for that office.^ For, a year before this tale of the Cualnge 
Cattle-raid, Bricriu had gone from the one province into the 
other to make a request of Fergus. And Fergus had retained 

i-.i YBL. 

41a, 8. 

2. ..2 H. 

I. 13- 

3. ..3 H. I. 

13 and Add. 

4.. .4 H. 

I. 13 and Add. 

'-^ H. I. 

13 and Add. 

6.. .6 H. 

I. 13. and Add, 

'•••' H. I. 

13 and Add. 

8. ..8 H. 

I. 13 and Add. 

»•••» H. I. 

13 and Add. 


364 Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 6134. him with him waiting for his treasures and goods. And 
a quarrel arose between him and Fergus at a game of chess." 
And he spake evil words to Fergus. Fergus smote him 
with his fist and with the chess-man that was in his hand, 
so that he drave the chessman into his head and broke a 
bone in his head. Whilst the men of Erin were on the foray 
of the Tain, all that time Bricriu was being cured at 
Cruachan. And the day they returned from the expedition 
was the day Bricriu rose. ^ He came with the rest to witness 
the battle of the bulls. ^ 2 And this is why they selected 
Bricriu, 2 for that Bricriu was no fairer to his friend than to 
his foe. ^ " Come, ye men of Erin ! " cried Bricriu ; " per- 
mit me to judge the fight of the bulls, ^ * for it is I shall most 
truly recount their tale and their deeds afterwards." * 
And he was brought ^ before the men of Erin ^ to a gap 
whence to view the bulls. 

® So they drove the Brown Bull the morning of the fight 
till he met the Whitehorned at Tarbga in the plain of Ai : 
orTarbguba (' Bull-groan '), or Tarbgleo (* Bull-fight ') ; Roi 
Dedond was the first name of that hill. Every one that 
had hved through the battle cared for naught else than to 
see the combat of the two bulls.® 

Each of the bulls sighted the other and there was a pawing 

and digging up of the ground in their frenzy there, and 

they tossed the earth over them. They threw up the earth 

over their withers and shoulders, and their eyes blazed 

*LL. fo.io4a. red * in their heads like firm balls of fire, "^ and their sides 

bent like mighty boars on a hill.'^ Their cheeks and their 

nostrils swelled like smith's bellows in a forge. And each 

of them gave a resounding, deadly blow to the other. Each 

of them began to hole and to gore, to endeavour to slaughter 

" The story is told in * The Adventures of Nera, ' published in the 
Revue Celtique, t. x, p. 227. 

1-1 YBL. 53a, 4-5. 2... 2 stowe. 

3-"3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 4.. .4 h. i. 13 and Add. 

5. ..5 H. I. 13. «•••« YBL. 52b,52-53a,3. 

'•••' Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

The Battle of the Bulls 365 

6i5i.and demolish the other. Then the Whitehorned of Ai 
visited his wrath upon the Brown Bull of Cualnge for the 
evil of his ways and his doings, and he drave a horn into his 
side and visited his angry rage upon him. Then they 
directed their headlong course to where Bricriu was, so that 
the hoofs of the bulls drove him a man's cubit deep into the 
ground after his destruction. Hence, this is the Tragical 
Death of Bricriu ^ son of Carbad.^ 

Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar saw that, ^ and 
the force of affection arose in him, 2 and he laid hold of a 
spearshaft that filled his grasp, and gave three blows to 
the Brown Bull of Cualnge from ear to tail, ^ so that it 
broke on his thick hide from ear to rump.^ " No wonderful, 
lasting treasure was this precious prize for us," said Cormac, 
" that cannot defend himself against a stirk of his own 
age ! " The Brown Bull of Cualnge heard this — for he had 
human understanding" — and he turned upon the White- 
horned. ^Thereupon the Brown of Cualnge became infuri- 
ated, and he described a very circle of rage around the 
Whitehorned, and he rushed at him, so that he broke his 
lower leg with the shock.* And thereafter they continued 
to strike at each other for a long while and great space of 
time, ^ and so long as the day lasted they watched the 
contest of the bulls ^ till night fell on the men of Erin. And 
when night had fallen, all that the men of Erin could hear 
was the bellowing and roaring. That night the bulls 
coursed over ^ the greater part of ^ all Erin. "^ For every 
spot in Erin wherein is a * Bulls' Ditch,' or a ' Bulls' Gap,' 
or a ' Bulls' Fen,' or a ' Bulls' Loch,' or a ' Bulls' Rath,' 
^ or a ' Bulls' Back,' ^ it is from them ^ ^ those places are 

1--1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

2.. .2 stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 3... 3 stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

* See note ''■, page 28, supra. 

4-4 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. ^-^ Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

6--6 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. '— ' Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

»•••» H. I. 13 and Add. »•••• Add. 



2 A JOURNEY of a day and a night the Brown Bull carried 
the remains of the Whitehorned till he came to the loch that 
is by Cruachan. And he came thereout with the loin and 
the shoulder-blade and the liver of the other on his horns. ^ 
W. 6168. It was not long before the men of Erin, as they were there 
^ in the company of Ailill and Medb ^ early on the morrow, 
saw coming over Cruachan from the west the Brown Bull 
of Cualnge with the Whitehorned of Ai in torn fragments 
hanging about his ears and horns. The men of Erin arose, 
and they knew not which of the bulls it was. " Come, ye 
men ! " cried Fergus ; " leave him alone if it be the White- 
horned that is there ; and if it be the Brown of Cualnge, 
leave him his trophy with him ! *' 

* Then it was that the ^ seven ^ Mane arose to take 
vengeance on the Brown Bull of Cualnge for his violence 
and his valour. " Whither go yonder men ? " asked Fergus. 
*' They go to kill the Brown of Cualnge,*' ^ said all,® 
" because of his evil deeds." * "I pledge my word/' 
' shouted Fergus : ^ " what has already been done in regard 
to the bulls is a small thing in compare with that which will 

1-1 YBL. 41a, 8. 2.. .2 YBL. 53a, 13-16. 

3-"3 H. I. 13 and Add. *•••* Stowe and Add. 
5-5 Add. 6... 6 H. I. 13 and Add. 

'•••' H. I. 13, Stowe and Add. 


The Account of the Brown Bull of Ciialnge 367 

6179. now take place, ^ unless with his spoils and victory ye let 
the Brown of Cualnge go from you into his own land." ^ 

2 Then the Brown Bull of Cualnge gave forth the three 
chiefest bellowings of his throat in boast of his triumph, 
and fear of Fergus held back the men of Erin from attack- 
ing the Brown Bull of Cualnge. ^ 

3 Then ^ went the Brown Bull of Cualnge ^ to the west of 
Cruachan.^ He turned his right" side towards Cruachan, 
and he left there a heap of the liver ^ of the Whitehomed,^ 
so that thence is ^ named ® Cruachan Ai (' Liver-reeks '). 

' Next he ^ came to his own land and ^ reached the river 
Finnglas ('Whitewater'), and, ^ on coming,® he drank a 
draught from the river, and, so long as he drank the draught, 
he let not one drop of the river flow by him. Then he raised 
his head, and the shoulder-blades of the Whitehomed fell 
from him in that place. Hence, Sruthair Finnlethe (* Stream 
of the White Shoulder-blade ') is the name given to it."' 

He pursued his way ^^ to the river Shannon, ^® to the brink 
of Ath Mor (' the Great Ford '), ^^ and he drank a draught 
from it, and, as long as he drank the draught, he let not one 
drop of the river flow past him. Then he raised his head, 
so that the two haunches of the Whitehomed fell from him 
there ; ^^ and he left behind the loin of the Whitehomed 
in that place, so that thence cometh Athlone (' Loinford'). 
He continued eastwards into the land of Meath to Ath 
Truim. ^^He sent forth his roar at Iraird Cuillinn; he 
was heard over the entire province. And he drank in 
Tromma.^2 13 ^s long as he drank the draught, he let not 
one drop of the river flow past him.^^ And he left behind 

1---1 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. ^...2 h. i. 13. 

3---3 H. I. 13 and Add. 4--* H. i. 13 and Add. 

« As a sign of friendliness. ^—^ H. i. 13 and Add. 

6"« H. I. 13 and Add. '...7 stowe. 

8. ..8 YBL. 53a, 18. »•••» YBL. 53a, 18. 

10--10 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. "•••" Stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

12. ..12 YBL. 53a, 22. 13. ..13 stowe, H. i. 13 and Add. 

368 , Tain Bo Cualnge 

W. 6192. there the Hver of the Whitehorned. ^ Some 2 learned 
men 2 say, it is from the hver of the Whitehorned which 
fell from the Brown of Cualnge, that Ath Truim (' Liverford ') 
is called.^ 

He raised his head haughtily and shook the remains 
of the Whitehorned from him over Erin. He sent its 
hind leg away from him to Port Large (' Port of the Hind 
Leg'). He sent its ribs from him to Dublin, which is called 
Ath Chath (' Ford of the Ribs ' or ' of the Hurdles'). 

He turned his face northwards then, ^ and went on thence 
to the summit of Sliab Breg, and he saw the peaks ^ and 
knew the land of Cualnge, ^ and a great agitation came 
over him at the sight of his own land and country,^ and 
he went his way towards it. In that place were women 
and youths and children lamenting the Brown Bull of 
Cualnge. They saw the Brown of Cualnge's forehead ap- 
proaching them. " The forehead of a bull cometh towards 
us ! " they shouted. Hence is Taul Tairb (' Bull's Brow ') 
ever since. ^ Then he went on the road of Midluachar to 
Cuib, where he was w'ont to be with the yeld cow of Dare, 
and he tore up the earth there. Hence cometh Gort Buraig 
('Field of the Trench ').5 
LL. fo.io4b. * Then turned the Brown of Cualnge on the women and 
youths and children of the land of Cualnge, and ^ with the 
greatness of his fury and rage ^ he effected a great slaughter 
^ amongst them.'' He turned his back to the hill then and 
his heart broke in his breast, even as a nut breaks, ® and he 
belched out his heart hke a black stone of dark blood. ^ 
^ He went then and died between Ulster and Ui Echach at 
Druim Tairb. Druim Tairb (' Bull's Back') is the name of 
that place. ^ 

1-1 H. I. 13 and Add. 

2-2 Add. 

3---3 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

4-"4 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add 

5-5 YBL. 53a, 26-28. 

«•••« H. I. 13 and Add. '• 

••' Translating from Stowe. 

8-"8 Stowe, H. I. 13 and Add. 

»•••» YBL. 53a, 28-29. 

The Account of the Brown Bull of Cualnge 369 

1 Such, then, is the account of the Brown Bull of Cualnge, 
and the end of the Tdin by Medb of Cruachan daughter of 
Eocho Fedlech, and by Ailill son of Maga, and by all the 
men of Ulster up to this point. ^ 2 ^n^n ^^^ Medb made 
peace with the men of Ulster and with Cuchulain. For 
seven years there was no kiUing of men amongst them in 
Erin. Finnabair remained with Cuchulain, and the Con- 
nachtmen went to their own land, and the men of Ulster 
returned to Emain Macha with their great triumph. Finit. 

* 9ic 4: * * 

A blessing be upon all such as shall faithfully keep the 
Tain in memory as it stands here and shall not add any 
other form to it.** 

:ic H: 4c * He 

I, however, who have copied this history, or more truly 
legend, give no credence to various incidents narrated in it. 
For, some things herein are the feats of jugglery of demons, 
sundry others poetic figments, a few are probable, others 
improbable, and even more invented for the delectation 
of fools. 

^•••1 Translating from H. i. 13 and Add. 

2. ..2 YBL. 53a, 29-33- 

• With this the Irish text concludes : what follows is in Latin. 





It will simplify matters for the English reader if the following 
points respecting the pronunciation of proper names in medieval 
Irish, are borne in mind : 

Each simple word is accented on the first syllable. 
Pronounce : 

a (long), as in aught ; a (short), as in hoi, 

c with slender vowels (e, i), as in king ; never as s. 

c with broad vowels (a, o, u), as in car ; never as s. 

oh with slender vowels (e, i), as in German Ich ; never as in 

ch with broad vowels (a, o, u), as in German Buch ; never as in 

d with slender vowels (e, i), as in French dieu. 

d with broad vowels (a, o, u), as in thy. 

e (long), as in ale ; e (short), as in het. 

g with slender vowels (e, i), as in give ; never as ;". 

g with broad vowels (a, o, u), as in go ; never as /. 

gh with slender vowels (e, i) is slender ch voiced. 

gh with broad vowels (a, o, u) is broad ch voiced, 

i (long), as in feel ; i (short), as in it. 

mh and bh intervocalic with slender vowels, as v. 

mh and bh intervocalic with broad vowels, as w, 

6 (long), as in note ; o (short), as in done, 

s with slender vowels (e, i), as in shine ; never as z, 

s with broad vowels (a, o, u), as s. 

t with slender vowels (e, i), as in tin. 

t with broad vowels (a, o, u), as in threw, 

th, like h, 

u (long), as in pool ;. u (short), as in jull. 

The remaining consonants are pronounced almost as in English. 

Aed : to rime with Day the south-west of the County 

Aed Ernmas : the father of the Galway 

Morrigan Aifd : one of the three women- 

Ai : see Mag Ai teachers of Cuchulain and 

Aidne : a district comprising Ferdiad (pronounced Eefe) 

the barony of Kiltartan, in Aile : north-east of Baile, on 




Medb's march from Cruach- 
an into Ulster 

Ailill : king -consort of Queen 
Medb, dwelling in Cruachan 
Ai (pronounced Ayeleel) 

Ailill Find Miltenga : one of the 
chief heroes of Ulster 

Ailill macMailchlo : father of 

Aind : see Cnoc Aind 

Aimd : north-east of Assd 

Alba : Scotland 

Amargin larngiunnach : a lead- 
ing Ulster hero ; father of 
Conall Cernach and brother 
of Iliach (pronounced Aver- 

Ane : a district in which is 
Knockaney in the County 

Ardachad : north of Druim 

Ard Ciannachta : a place in the 
barony of Ferrard, in the 
County Louth 

Ard Cuillenn : in Ulster, east of 
Moin Coltna 

Ard Macha : Armagh 

Assail : a place in Meath 

Ass6 : north of Finnabair (Fen- 
nor), on Medb's march out 
of Connacht into Ulster 

Ath : ' a ford ' (pronounced Ah) 

Ath Aladh Ind : a ford in the 
Plain of Murthemne 

Ath Berchna : in Connacht, 
north-west of Croohan, near 
Bellanagare ; it may be for 
Ath Bercha, in East Ros- 
common, and on or near the 

Ath Buide ; the village of Ath- 
boy, in the territory of Ross, 
County Meath 

Ath Carpat : a ford on the river 
Nith (now the Dee), in the 
County Louth 

Ath Ceit Chule : a ford on the 
river Glais, in Ulster 

Ath Cliath : DubUn 

Ath Coltna : in Connacht, south- 

west of Ath Moga and south- 
east of Cruachan 

Ath Cro : a ford in Murthemne 

Ath da Fert : a ford in Sliab 
Fuait, probably in the south 
of the barony of Upper 
Fews, County Armagh 

Ath Darteisc : a ford in Mur- 

Ath FeidU : a ford in Ulster 

Ath Fene : see Ath Irmidi 

Ath Firdead : Ardee, a ford and 
a small town on the river 
Dee, in the County Louth 

Ath Gabla ; a ford on the Boyne, 
north of Knowth, in the 
County Meath (pronounced 
Ah gowla) 

Ath Grenca : the same as Ath 

Ath Irmidi : the older name of 
Ath Fene, south of Iraird 

Ath Lethain : a ford on the 
Nith, in Conalle Murthemni 

Ath Luain : Athlone, on the 
Shannon, on the borders of 
Connacht and Meath 

Ath Meislir : a ford in Sliab 
Fuait, in Ulster 

Ath Moga : the present Bally- 
moe, on the river Suck, 
about ten miles to the south- 
west of Cruachan, County 

Ath Mor : the old name for Ath 

Ath na Foraire : on the road 
between Emain and Loch 

Ath Slissen : BellasUshen Bridge ; 
a ford on the Owenure River, 
near Elphin, in Connacht 

Ath Solomshet : a ford, probably 
in Ulster 

Ath Srethe : a ford in Conalle 

Ath Tamuin : a ford, somewhere 
in Ulster 

Ath Traged : at the extremity 
of Tir Mor, in Murthemne 



Ath Truim : Trim, on the river 
Boyne, in the County Meath 

Aue : a slave in the household 
of King Conchobar 

Aurthuile : north-east of Airne 

Bacca : in Corcumruad 
Bacc Draigin : a place in Ulster 
Badb : the war-fury, or goddess 
of war and carnage ; she 
was wont to appear in the 
form of a carrion-crow. 
Sometimes she is the sister 
of the Morrigan, and, as in 
the Tain Bo Cualnge, is even 
identified with her (pro- 
nounced Bive) 

Badbgna : now Slieve Bawne, a 
mountainous range, in the 
barony of Ballintubber, in 
the east of County Ros- 

Baile : north-east of Meide ind 
Eoin, on Medb's march from 
Connacht into Ulster 

Baile in Bile : on the way to 

Bairche : Benna Bairche, the 
Mourne Mountains, north of 
Dundalk, in Ulster 

Ball Scena : north-east of Dall 

Banba : an old name for Ireland 

Banna : now the Bann, a river 
in Ulster 

Becaltach : grandfather of Cu- 

Bedg : a river in Murthemne 

Belat Aileain : probably be- 
tween Cualnge and Conalle 

Belach Caille More : north of 

Benna Bairche : see Bairche 

Berba : the Barrow, a river in 

Bercha : on or near the Shannon, 
near Bellanagare, in East 
Berchna : probably for Bercha 

Bernas : the pass cut by Medb 
from Louth into Armagh ; 
probably the " Windy Gap " 
across the Carlingford Pen- 

Betha : see Sliab Betha 

Bir : the name of several rivers ; 
probably Moyola Water, a 
river flowing into Lough 

Bithslan : a river in Conalle 

Blai : a rich Ulster noble and 

Boann : the River Boyne 

Bodb : the father of Badb 

Boirenn : Burren, in the County 

Bran^ : probably a hill not far 
from Ardee, in the County 

Breslech Mor : a fort in Mur- 

Brecc : a place in Ulster 

Brega : the eastern part of Meath 

Brenide : a river in Conalle 
Murthemni, near Strang- 
ford Lough 

Bricriu : son of Carbad, and the 
evil adviser of the Ulster- 

Bri Errgi : stronghold of Errge 
Echbel, in the County Down 

Brigantia : Betanzos, in Galicia, 
on the north coast of Spain 

Bri Ross : a hill to the north of 
Ardee, in the County Louth 

Brug Meic ind Oc, or, as it is also 

Brug na Boinde : Brugh on the 
Boyne, near Stackallen 
Bridge, County Meath, one 
of the chief burial-places of 
the pagan Irish 
Buagnech : probably in Leinster 

and near the river Liffey 
Buan : a river in Conalle Mur- 
Buas : the river Bush, in the 

County Antrim 
Burach : a place in Ulster 



Callann : the Callan, a river near 
Emain Macha 

Canann Gall : a place in Ulster 

Carn : north of Inneoin ; pro- 
bably Cam Fiachach, in the 
parish of Conry, barony of 
Rathconrath, Westmeath 

Cam macBuachalla, at Dun- 
severick, in Ulster 

Carbre : stepson of Conchobar 
and brother of Ailill 

Carrloeg : a place in Ulster 

Casruba : father of Lugaid and 
grandfather of Dubthach 

Cathba : north-east of Ochonn, 
in Meath ; or a river flowing 
into the Boyne, some dis- 
tance to the west of Slane 

Cathba : a druid of Conchobar 's 
court ; according to some 
accounts, the natural father 
of King Conchobar (pro- 
nounced Cahvah) 

Celtchar : son of Uthechar, an 
Ulster warrior 

Cenannas na rig : Kells, in the 
County Meath 

Cenn Abrat : a range of hills on 
the borders of the Counties 
Cork and Limerick 

Cet macMagach : a Connacht 

Cinn Tire : a place in Ulster 

Clann Dedad : one of the three 
warrior-clans of Erin : a 
sept occupying the territory 
around Castleisland, County 

Clann Rudraige : the warriors of 
King Conchobar : one of 
the three heroic tribes of 

Clartha : Clara, near the present 
town of Mullingar, in the 
County Westmeath 

Cletech : a residence of the kings 
of Ireland in Mag Breg, near 
Stackallan Bridge, on the 
banks of the Boyne 

Clidna : see sub Tonn 

Clithar Bo Ulad : probably in 

the centfe of the County 

Cliu : an extensive territory in 
the county Limerick 

Clothru : sister of Medb : Medb 
slew her while her son, 
Firbaide, was still unborn 

Cluain Cain : now Clonkeen, in 
the west of County Louth 

Cluain Carpat : a meadow at the 
river Cruinn in Cualnge 

Cluain maccuNois : Clonmac- 
noise, on the Shannon, about 
nine miles below Athlone 

Cnoc Aine : Knockany, a hill 
and plain in the County 

Cnogba : Knowth, on the Boyne, 
near Drogheda, a couple of 
miles east of Slane, in the 
County Meath 

Colbtha : the mouth of the 
Boyne at Drogheda, or some 
place near the Bojme 

Collamair : between Gormans- 
town and Turvey, in the 
County Dublin 

Coltain : south of Cruachan Ai 

Conall : probably Tyrconnel, in 
the County Donegal 

Conall Cernach : one of the chief 
warriors of Ulster : foster- 
brother of Cuchulain and 
next to him in point of 

Conalle Murthemni : a level 
plain in the County Louth, 
extending from the Cooley 
Mountains, or Carlingford, 
to the Boyne 

Conchobar : son of Cathba the 
druid, and of Ness, and 
foster-son of Fachtna Fatach 
(variously pronounced Cru- 
hoor, Connahoor) 

Conlaech : son of Cuchulain and 

Corcumruad : the present bar- 
ony of Corcomroe, in the 
County Clare 

Cormac Conlongas : King Con- 



chobar's eldest son ; called 
"the Intelligent Exile," be- 
cause of the part he took as 
surety for the safety of the 
exiled sons of Usnech 

Coronn : the barony of Corran, 
in the County Sligo 

Corp Cliath : a place in Ulster 

Craeb ruad : ordinarily Eng- 
lished *' Red Branch " ; bet- 
ter, perhaps, " Nobles' 
Branch :" King Conchobar's 
banqueting-hall, at Emain 

Crannach : at Faughart, north- 
east of Fid Mor 

Cromma : a river flowing into 
the Boyne not far from Slane 

Cronn hi Cualngi : probably a 
hill or river of this name 
near Cualnge 

Cruachan Ai : the ancient seat 
and royal burial-place of the 
kings of Connacht, ten miles 
north-east of the modern 
Rathcroghan, near Belana- 
gare, in the County Roscom- 
mon (pronounced Croohan) 

Cruinn : a river in Cualnge : 
probably the stream now 
called the Piedmont River, 
emptying into Dundalk Bay 

Crutlmech : the land of the 
Irish Picts ; the northern 
part of the County Down 
and the southern part of the 
County Antrim 

Cu, Cucuc, Cuacain, Cucucan, 
Cucucuc : diminutives of 
the name Cuchulain 

Cualnge : Cooley, a mountainous 
district between Dundalk 
Bay and Drogheda, in the 
barony of Lower Dundalk, in 
the County Louth. It origin- 
ally extended to the County 
Down, and the name is now 
applied to the southern side 
of the Carlingford Moun- 
tains (pronounced Culn'ya) 

Cualu : a district in the County 

Cuchulain : the usual name of 
the hero Setanta ; son of 
the god Lug and of Dech- 
tire, and foster-son of Sual- 
taim (pronounced CuhSin) 

Cuib : on the road to Midlua- 

Cuilenn : the Cully Waters flow- 
ing southward from County 
Armagh into County Louth 

Cul SibUnne : now Kells in East 

Cul Silinne : Kilcooley, a few 
miles to the south-east of 
Cruachan, in the County 

Culenn : a river in Conalle 

Cuillenn : see Ard Cuillenn 

Cuillenn Cinn Duni : a hill in 

Cuince : a mountain in Cualnge 

Cumung : a river in Conalle 

Curoi : son of Dard and king of 
South Munster 

Cuscraid Menn Macha : son of 

Dall Scena : a place north of Aild 
Dalraida : now "the Route," a 
territory north of Slieve 
Mish, in the north of the 
County Antrim 
Dare : chieftain of the cantred 
of Cualnge and owner of the 
Brown Bull of Cualnge 
Dechtire : sister of King Con- 
chobar and mother of Cu- 
Delga : see Dun Delga 
Delga Murthemni : Dundalk 
DeHnn : a place or river near 
Kells between Duelt and 
Selaig, on Medb's march, 
from Cruachan into Ulster 
Delt : a place north of Drong, 
on Medb's march from Crua- 
chan into Ulster 



Delt : a river in Conalle Mur- 

Dergderc : Lough Derg, an ex- 
pansion of the Shannon near 

Dichaem : a river in Conalle 

Domnann see Irrus Domnannj* 

Drong : a river in the land ot 
the men of Assail, in Meath 

Druim Caimthechta : north-east 
of Druim Cain 

Druim Cain : possibly an older 
name for Temair (Tara) 

Druim En : in South Armagh ; 
probably a wooded height, 
near Ballymascanlan, in the 
County Louth 

Druim Fomocht : near Newry, 
in the County Down 

Druim Liccd : north-east of Gort 
Slane, on Medb's march 
from Connacht into Ul- 

Druim Salfinn : now Drumshal- 
lon, a townland in the 
County Louth, six miles 
north of Drogheda 

Dub : the Blackwater, on the 
confines of Ulster and Con- 
nacht ; or the confluence of 
the Rivers Boyne and Black- 
water at Navan 

Dubh Sithleann (or Sainglenn) : 
the name of one of Cuchu- 
lain's two horses 

Dubloch : a lake between Kil- 
cooley and Slieve Bawne, in 
the County Roscommon, on 
Medb's march from Crua- 
chan into Ulster 

Dubthach Doel Ulad : the Ul- 
ster noble who shares with 
Bricriu the place as prime 
mover of evil among the 
Ulstermen (pronounced Duf- 

Duelt : north or north-west of 
Delt, on Medb's march from 
Cruachan into Ulster 
Dun da Benn : Mount Sandle, 

on the Bann, near Coleraine 
in the County Derry 

Dun Delga : Dundalk, or the 
moat of Castletown, on the 
east coast near Dundalk ; 
Cuchulain's home town 

Dun macNechtain Scend : a fort 
in Mag Breg, at the place 
where the Mattock falls into 
the Boyne, about three miles 
above Drogheda 

Dun Sobairche : Dunseverick, 
about three miles from the 
Giants' Causeway, in the 
County Antrim 

Elg : an old name for Ireland 

EUne : probably east of the River 
Bann, near Coleraine 

Ellonn : a place in Ulster 

Emain Macha : the Navan Fort, 
or Hill, two miles west of 
Armagh ; King Conchobar's 
capital and the chief town 
of Ulster (pronounced Evvin 

Emer Foltchain : wife of Cuchu- 
lain (pronounced Ewer) 

Enna Agnech : according to the 
Annals of the Four Masters, 
he was High King of Ireland 
from 312 to 293 B.C. 

Eo Donn Mor : north-east of 
Eo Donn Bee, in the County 

Eocho Fedlech : father of Medb ; 
according to the Four 
Masters, he reigned as mon- 
arch of Ireland from 142 to 
131 B.C. (pronounced YHJi- 

Eocho Salbuide : King of Ulster 
and father of Cethern's wife, 

Eogan macDurthachta : a chief 
warrior of Ulster and Prince 
of Femmag 

Ere macFedilmithi : an Ulster 
hero, son of Fedlimid and 
grandson of Conchobar 

Erna : a sept of Munstermen who 



later settled about Lough 
Erne, in Connacht 

Ess Ruaid : Assaroe ; a cataract 
on the River Erne near Bal- 
lyshannon, in the south of 
the County Donegal. It 
constituted part of the old 
boundary between Ulster 
and Connacht 

Etarbane : one of the " seats " 
of the king of Cashel, in Tip- 

Ethliu : father of Lug 

Ethne : sister of Medb (pro- 
nounced Ehnna) 

Fachtna Fathach : king of Ul- 
ster and later of all Ireland ; 
adoptive father of Concho- 
bar and husband of Ness, 
Conchobar's mother 

Fal (or Inisfail) : one of the bar- 
dic names for Ireland ; Medb 
is called " of Fal," as daugh- 
ter of the High King of Ire- 
land (pronounced Fawl) 

Fan na Coba : a territory in 
the baronies of Upper and 
Lower Iveagh, in the County 

Fedain Cualngi : a place in 

Fedlimid Nocruthach : daugh- 
ter of King Conchobar, 
wife of Loegaire Buadach, 
mother of Fiachna and 
cousin-german of Cuchulain 
(pronounced Falemid) 

Femen : a territory at Slieve- 
na-man, extending perhaps 
from Cashel to Clonmel, in 

I ■'! the southern part of the 
County Tipperary 

Fene : the old tribal name of 
the Gaels ; the" King of the 
Fend " is Conchobar, King 
of Ulster 

Feorainn : a place near Ard- 
achad, on Medb's march into 

Fercerdne : chief poet of the men 
of Ulster 


Fergus macRoig : one time king 
of Ulster ; in voluntary 
exile in Connacht after the 
treacherous putting to death 
of the sons of Usnech by 
Conchobar. He became the 
chief director of the Tain un- 
der Medb 

Ferloga : Ailill's charioteer 

Femmag : Farney, a barony in 
the County Monaghan 

Ferta Fingin : at SHab Fuait 

Fiachu macFiraba : one of the 
exiles of Ulster in the camp 
of Medb 

Fian : the warrior-class 

Fid Dub : a wood, north of Cul 
Silinne, on Medb's march into 

Fid Mor : a wood, north of Dun- 
dalk and between it and Sliab 

Fingabair : probably in the Fews 

Finnabair : daughter to AiUll 
and Medb (pronounced Fin- 

Finnabair : Fennor, on the banks 
of the Boyne, near Slane, in 

Finnabair Slebe : near Imlech 

Finncharn Slebe Moduim : a 
height in the Moume Moun- 

Finnglas : a river in Conalle 

Finnglassa Asail : a river south- 
east of Cruachan 

Fir Assail : a district containing 
the barony of Farbill, in 

Flidais Foltchain : wife of Ailill 
Finn, a Connacht chieftain ; 
after her husband's violent 
death she became the wife 
of Fergus, and accompanied 
him on the Tain 



Fochain : near Cuchulain's abode 
Fochard Murthemni : Faughart, 

two miles north-west of Dun- 

dalk, in the County Louth 
Fodromma : a river flowing into 

the Boyne near Slane 
Fuil laim : the name of a ford 

west of Ardee 

Gabal: the Feeguile, a river in 
the King's County 

Gabar : a place near Donagh- 
more, perhaps to, the west 
of Lough Neagh in the 
County Tyrone 

Galian : a name the Leinster- 
men bore. They were Ail- 
ill's countrymen 

Gainemain : a river in Conalle 

Garech : the name of the hill 
where the final battle of the 
Tain was fought, some dis- 
tance south-east of Athlone 
and nearMuUingar, in West- 

Gegg : a woman's name 

Genonn Gruadsolus : a druid and 
poet of Ulster ; son of 

Glaiss Colptha : the river Bo3me 

Glaiss Gatlaig : a river in Ulster 

Glenamain : a river in Conalle 

Glenn Fochain : probably a val- 
ley east of Bellurgan Station 

Glenn Gatt : a valley in Ulster 

Glennamain : in Murthemne 

Glenn in Scail : a place in Dala- 
raide. East Ulster 

Glenn na Samaisce : in Slieve 
Gullion, in the County Ar- 

Glenn Tail : another name for 
Belat Aileain 

Gleoir : the Glore, a river in 
Conalle Murthemni 

Gluine Gabur : east of the Shan- 
non, in the County Longford 

Gort Slane : north of Slane and 
south-west of Druim Liccd 

Grellach Bobulge : at Dunsever- 

ick, in Ulster 
Grellach Dolar (or DoUuid) : 

Girley, near Kells, in the 

County Meath 
Gualu Mulchi : the town-land of 

Drumgoolestown on the 

river Dee, in the County 


lalla Ilgremma : near Sliab 
Betha and Mag Dula 

Ibar macRiangabra : Concho- 
bar's charioteer 

Id macRiangabra : Ferdiad's 
charioteer, brother to Laeg 

Ilgarech : a hill near Garech, 

Iliach : grandfather to Conall 

lUann Ilarchless : an Ulster war- 
rior, son to Fergus 

Imchad : son to Fiachna 

Imchlar : near Donaghmore, 
west of Dungannon, in the 
County Tyrone 

Immail : a place in the Moume 
Mountains, in Ulster 

Imrinn : a druid, son to Cathba 

Inis Cuscraid : Inch, near Down- 

Inis Clothrann : Inishcloghran 
in Loch Ree, County Long- 

Innbir Scene: the mouth of Water- 
ford Harbour near Tramore ; 
or the mouth of Kenmare 
Bay, in the County Kerry 

Inneoin : the Dungolman, a river 
into which the Inny flows 
and which divides the bar- 
ony of Kilkenny West from 
Rathconrath, in the County 

Iraird Cuillinn : a height south 
of Emain Macha, in Ulster 

Irrus Domnann : the barony of 
Erris, in County Mayo : the 
clan which bore this name 
and to which Ferdiad be- 
longed was one of the three 



heroic races of ancient Ire- 

Laeg : son of Riangabair and 
Cuchulain's faithful chariot- 
eer (pronounced Lay) 

Latharne : Larne, in the County 

Lebarcham : a sorceress 

Leire : in the territory of the 
Fir Roiss, in the south of 
the County Antrim 

Ler : the Irish sea-god 

Lethglas : Dun Lethglaisse, now 
Downpatrick, in Ulster 

Lettre Luasce : between Cualnge 
and Conalle 

Lia Mor : in Conalle Mur- 

Liath Mache : 'the Roan,' one 
of Cuchulain's two horses. 

Lia Ualann : in Cualnge 

Line (or Mag Line) : Moylinne, 
in the County Antrim 

Loch Ce : Lough Key, in the 
County Roscommon 

Loch Echtrann : Muckno Lake, 
south of Sliab Fuait, in the 
County Monaghan 

Loch Erne : Lough Erne, in the 
County Fermanagh 

Loch Ri : Lough Ree, on the 
Shannon, in the County Gal- 

Loegaire Buadach : son to Con- 
nad Buide and husband of 
Fedlimid Nocruthach ; one 
of the chief warriors of 
Ulster (pronounced Layeray) 

Lothor : a place in Ulster 

Luachair : probably Slieve Lou- 
gher, or the plain in which 
lay Temair Luachra, a fort 
somewhere near the town of 
Castleisland, in the County 

Lug : the divine father of Cuchu- 

Lugaid : father of Dubthach 

Lugmud : Louth, in the County 
of that name 

Luibnech : possibly a place now 
called Limerick, in the Coun- 
ty Wexford 

MacMagach : relatives of Ailill 
MacRoth : Medb's chief mes- 
Mag : ' a plain * (pronounced moy) 
Mag Ai : the great plain in the 
County Roscommon, ex- 
tending from Ballymore to 
Elphin, and from Bellana- 
gare to Strokestown (pro- 
nounced Moy wee) 
Mag Breg : the plain along and 
south of the lower Boyne, 
comprising the east of Coun- 
ty Meath and the north of 
County Dublin (pronounced 
Moy bray) 
Mag Cruimm : south-east of 

Cruachan, in Connacht 
Mag Dea : a plain in Ulster 
Mag Dula : a plain though which 
the Do flows by Castledaw- 
son into Lough Neagh 
Mag Eola : a plain in Ulster 
Mag Inis : the plain comprising 
the baronies of Lecale and 
Upper Castlereagh, in the 
County Down 
Mag Lind : Moyhnne, a plain 
to the north-east of Lough 
Neagh, in the barony of 
Upper Antrim 
Mag Mucceda : a plain near 

Emain Macha 
Mag Trega : Moytra, in the 

County Longford 
Mag Tuaga : a plain in Mayo 
Maic Miled : the Milesians 
Mairg : a district in which is 
Slievemargie, in the Queen's 
County and the County Kil- 
Manannan : son of Ler, a fairy 

Margine : a place in Cualnge 
Mas na Righna : Massareene, 

in the County Antrim 
Mata Murisc : mother of Ailill 



Medb : queen of Connacht and 
wife of Ailill (pronoun ced 
Mave ; in modern Connacht 
Irish rhyme with cow) 

Meide ind Eoin, and Meide in Tog- 
mail : places in or near the 
Boyne, in the County Louth 

Midluachair : SUge Midluachra, 
the name of the highroad 
east of Armagh, leading 
north from Tara to Emain 
and into the north of Ire- 

Mil : the legendary progenitor of 
the Milesians (see Maic Miled) 

Miliuc : a river in Conalle Mur- 

Moduirn : see Sliab Moduim 

Moin Coltna : a bog between 
Slieve Bawne and the Shan- 

Moraltach : great grandfather of 

Morann : a famous judge 

Morrigan : the war-goddess of 
the ancient Irish, " mon- 
strum in feminae figura " 
(pronounced More-reegan) 

Mossa : a territory, the southern 
part of which must have 
been in the barony of Eho- 
garty, not far from Cashel, 
in the County Tipperary 

Muach : a river in Conalle 

Muresc : the land of Ailill' s 
mother ; Murresk Hamlet, 
between Clew Bay and 
Croagh Patrick, in the 
County Mayo 

Murthemne : a great plain along 
the northern coast of the 
County Louth between the 
river Boyne and the Cooley 
Mountains ; now belonging 
to Leinster, but, at the time 
of the Tain, to Ulster (pro- 
nounced Mur-hev-ny) 

!N emain : the Badb 

Ness : mother of King Concho- 

bar by Cathba ; she after- 
wards married Fachtna Fath- 
ach and subsequently Fer- 
gus macRoig 
Nith : the river Dee which flows 
by Ardee, in the County 

Ochain : the name of Conchan 

bar's shield 
Ochonn Midi : a place near the 

Blackwater at Navan 
Ochtrach : near Finnglassa Asail, 

in Meath 
Oenfer Aifd : another name for 

Oengus Turbech : according to 

the Annals of Ireland, he 

reigned as High King from 

384 to 326 B.C. 
Ord : south-east of Cruachan 

and north of Tiarthechta 

Partraige beca : Partry in Sle- 
chta south-west of Kells, in 

Port Largd : Waterford 

Rath Airthir : a place in Con- 

Rath Cruachan : Rathcroghan, 
between Belanagare and El- 
phin, in the County Ros- 

Rede Loche : a place in Cualnge 

Renna : the mouth of the Boyne 

Riangabair : father of the chari- 
oteers, Laeg and Id 

Rigdonn : a place in the north 

Rinn : a river in Conalle Mur- 

Rogne : a territory between the 
rivers Suir and Barrow, in 
the barony of Kells, the 
County Kildare or Kilkenny 

Ross : a district in the south of 
the County Monaghan 

Ross Mor : probably Ross na 
Rig, near Ball Scena 

Sas : a river in Conalle Mur- 



Scathach : the Amazon dwelling 
in Alba who taught Cuchu- 
lain and Ferdiad their war- 
like feats (pronounced 
Selaig : Sheelagh, a townland in 
the barony of Upper Dun- 
Semne : Island Magee, north- 
east of Carrickfergus, in the 
County Antrim 
Senbothae : Templeshanbo, at 
the foot of Mount Leinster, 
in the County Wexford 
Sencha macAilella : the wise 
counsellor and judge of the 
Sered : a plain in the north of 
the barony of Tirhugh, 
County Donegal 
Setanta : the real name of Cu- 

Sid : the terrene gods (pro- 
nounced She) 
Sil : in Lecale, in the County 

Sinann : the river Shannon 
Siuir : the Suir, a river in Mun- 
ster, forming the northern 
boundary of the County 
Slabra : a place north of Selaig, 

near Kells, in Meath 
Slaiss : south-east of Cruachan, 

between Ord and Inneoin 
Slane : a town on the Boyne, in 

Slechta : south-west of Kells, in 

Slemain Mide': " Slane of Meath," 
Slewen, three miles to the 
west of Mullingar, in West- 
Sliab Betha : Slieve Beagh, a 
mountain whereon the Coun- 
ties of Fermanagh, Tyrone, 
and Monaghan meet 
Sliab Culinn : Slieve GuUion, in 

the County Armagh 
Sliab Fuait : the Fews Moun- 
tains, near Newtown-Ham- 

ilton, to the west and north- 
west of Slieve GuUion, in the 
southern part of the County 

Shab Mis : Slieve Mish, a moun- 
tain in the County Kerry, 
extending eastwards from 

Sliab Moduim : the Mourne 
Range, in the County Mon- 
aghan, partly in Cavan and 
partly in Meath 

Sruthair Finnlethe : a river west 
of Athlone 

Sualtaim (or, Sualtach) Sidech : 
the human father of Cuchu- 

Suide Lagen : Mount Leinster, 
in the County Wexford 

Tadg : a river in Conalle Mur- 

Taidle : near Cuib 
Taltiu : Teltown, in the County 
Meath, on or near the Black- 
water, between Navan and 
Kells ; one of the chief 
places of assembly and bur- 
ial of the Ulstermen 

Taul Tairb : in Cualnge 

Telamet : a river in Conalle 

Temair : Tara, the seat of the 
High King of Ireland, near 
Navan, in the County Meath 
(pronounced Tavvir) 

Tethba descirt : South Teffia, a 
territory about and south 
of the river Inny, in the 
County Longford 

Tethba tuascirt : south-east of 
Cruachan, in Teffia, County 

Tir Mor : in Murthemne 

Tir na Sorcha : a fabled land 
ruled over by Manannan 

Tir Taimgire : "the Land of 
Promise " 

Tonn Clidna : a loud surge in the 
Bay of Glandore 

Tonn Rudraige : a huge wave 



in the Bay of Dundrum, in 
the County Cork 

Tonn Tuage Inbir : "the Tuns," 
near the mouth of the river 
Bann on the north coast of 

Tor Breogain : " Bregon's 

Tower," in Spain 

Tromma : south-east of Crua- 
chan ; also the name of a 
river flowing into the Boyne 
near Slane 

Tuaim Mona : Tumona, a town- 
land in the parish of OguUa, 
near Tulsk, south of Crua- 
chan Ai, County Roscona- 

Tuatha Bressi : a name for the 
people of Connacht 

Tuatha De Danann : " the Tribes 

divine of Danu," the gods 
of the Irish Oljnnpus 
Turloch teora Crich : north of 
Tuaim Mona 

Uachtur Lua : in the land of 

Uarba : a place in Ulster 
Uathach : one of the three 

women-teachers of Cuchu- 

lain and Ferdiad 
Uathu : north of Ochain 
Ui Echach : the barony of 

Iveagh, in the County Down 
Umansruth : a stream in Mur- 

Usnech : father of Noisi, Annie 

and Ardan 
Uthechar : father of Celtchar and 

of Menn 

Printed by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London 

i i